Stonewall Democrats Club Chooses Cuomo Over Nixon

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday won the endorsement of New York City’s Stonewall Democratic Club, the city’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Democratic organization.

On Wednesday afternoon, Cynthia Nixon’s campaign sent an email blast to supporters, mocking Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s application for the Stonewall Democratic Club’s endorsement, accusing him of lying in a desperate bid to shore up support.

Hours later, the club, the city’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Democratic organization, endorsed Mr. Cuomo.

In the slog to September’s primary elections, the Stonewall Democrats are just one among a bevy of groups that have weighed in on the closely watched race for governor. But their choice makes clear the challenge facing Ms. Nixon, a political novice who would be the state’s first openly gay governor, as she seeks to unseat a two-term incumbent with a measurable track record.

“I have not agreed with the governor on everything he has done, both from a policy and politics perspective,” said Jeffrey LeFrancois, a Stonewall Democrats board member. “But at the end of the day, in the state of the country, state of the world right now, to take a gamble on somebody who has had zero experience in a political or governing environment is not a risk that I think is appropriate.”

The club’s endorsement of Mr. Cuomo also suggests uneven outcomes for the insurgent candidates who have often positioned themselves as a united bloc against establishment politicians in New York.

While the Stonewall Democrats declined to support Ms. Nixon, they did back the challengers to the members of the former Independent Democratic Conference, a group of Democratic state senators who for years collaborated with Republicans. Several of the anti-I.D.C. candidates and Ms. Nixon have traded endorsements.

The split was especially striking because Ms. Nixon has repeatedly attacked Mr. Cuomo’s relationship to the I.D.C., accusing him of tacitly encouraging the group in order to squash more liberal initiatives that he, a centrist, may not have wholeheartedly supported.

In fact, Ms. Nixon’s campaign email about the governor’s application to the Stonewall Democrats singled out a question in which Mr. Cuomo answered “no” to whether he had ever supported a member of the breakaway group. Mr. Cuomo endorsed Senator Jeffrey D. Klein, the group’s leader, in 2014. “Liar, Liar,” Ms. Nixon’s email trumpeted.

The governor has rejected suggestions that he enabled the I.D.C. He was a key player in the group’s decision in April to rejoin the mainline conference.

Members of the Stonewall Democrats said there was nothing inconsistent about their decision to back the I.D.C. challengers but not Ms. Nixon.

“The I.D.C. challengers represent a desire to see change,” said Rose Christ, a former president of the club and current board member, adding that the I.D.C. had blocked Democratic proposals to strengthen protections for transgender New Yorkers.

But with Mr. Cuomo, there was no such need for change. “My wife and I were married in New York State,” Ms. Christ said. “Without his leadership on marriage equality, that would not have been possible.”

Indeed, Mr. Cuomo’s tenure in politics and his savvy in navigating Albany’s webs — both frequent targets of Ms. Nixon’s ire — were cited as the strongest reasons to support him. In addition to legalizing same-sex marriage, Mr. Cuomo has expanded housing support for H.I.V. positive New Yorkers and barred health care providers from discriminating against transgender patients.

The club would not release the breakdown of the endorsement vote. But the message from several members was the same: respect and even affection for Ms. Nixon, but hesitation about her inexperience.

The members’ emphasis on accomplishments dovetailed with a generosity about past mistakes. Of Mr. Cuomo’s answer to whether he had ever backed I.D.C. candidates, Rod Townsend, the group’s president, called the question “poorly formed,” adding that it should have differentiated between past and future support.

Likewise for the governor’s denial that he had ever supported any candidates who had worked against L.G.B.T. rights, even though he has closely aligned himself with officials like Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, who voted against same-sex marriage in 2011. (Mr. Crespo, who told reporters on Wednesday that he would no longer vote the same way, also won the club’s endorsement.)

Ms. Nixon also answered “no” to the question. Her likely running mate for lieutenant governor, Jumaane Williams, has also said he was personally opposed to same-sex marriage, although he has affirmed his support for its legality.

Again and again, Mr. Cuomo’s time in the public eye — cultivating alliances, forging policies — overshadowed Ms. Nixon’s upstart campaign, a reminder of the governor’s hefty incumbency advantage despite Ms. Nixon’s efforts to wield it against him.

Bryan Ellicott, another member of the Stonewall Democrats’ board, acknowledged that Ms. Nixon had appeared in person to appeal for the group’s support on Wednesday, while Mr. Cuomo sent a surrogate.

But he was clear when asked if her attendance affected his decision.

“No,” he said. “Because that’s the first time she’s ever done it.”

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