ALBANY, N.Y. — An influential liberal third party won't play spoiler in this year's New York governor's race and will reconsider its support for "Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon in the general election if she doesn't beat Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary, a top party leader tells The Associated Press.
Bill Lipton, the Working Families Party's state political director, said that if Nixon should lose the September primary to Cuomo, his party leaders will meet with her to find a way to avoid splitting the liberal vote in November and potentially handing the race to a Republican candidate.
"We are confident that Cynthia Nixon is going to win the Democratic primary and go on to be the Working Families and Democratic nominee," he said. "In the unlikely event that she loses ... Cynthia is going to meet with our leaders, and we will make a decision that puts the interests of working families first.
"We will not be a spoiler. In 20 years we have never been a spoiler."
Nixon recently picked up the endorsement of the party, a coalition created to harness the political power of progressive groups and organized labor that helped elect New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Cuomo has long had a complicated relationship with the party and with liberals in general, some of whom complain that he has governed too much as a centrist. Nixon's challenge to Cuomo in the Democratic Primary has energized that liberal base.
Nixon's campaign called the WFP's endorsement of her candidacy a "crushing blow" for Cuomo. But the governor's own campaign has dismissed the party's decision, arguing that Cuomo has shown his progressive bona fides by passing gay marriage and gun control, raising the minimum wage and pushing back against Republicans in Washington.
If she remains the Working Family Party's nominee after its convention next month, Nixon will have a guaranteed spot on the November ballot even if she loses to Cuomo in the Democratic primary in September. That created the possibility that Cuomo and Nixon could split the liberal and Democratic vote and potentially hand the election to a Republican candidate — a possibility that Lipton said the Working Families Party won't allow to occur. He noted that the party initially backed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election as its preferred candidate — before endorsing Clinton in an effort to prevent Republican Donald Trump's election.
Nixon campaign spokeswoman Sarah Ford said the candidate is focused on beating Cuomo in the Democratic primary but echoed Lipton when asked what would happen if she doesn't.
"Neither Cynthia nor the Working Families Party has any interest in spoiling the election," Ford said.
Cuomo remains well ahead of Nixon in polls, though a Siena College poll released Tuesday showed Nixon is beginning to narrow Cuomo's lead. The survey found that Cuomo leads Nixon among registered Democratic voters by 58 percent to 27 percent, compared to a poll last month that had 66 percent of registered Democratic respondents backing Cuomo and 19 percent for Nixon.
Tuesday's poll also gave Cuomo commanding leads over two Republican candidates for governor, Syracuse state Sen. John DeFrancisco and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.
Cuomo has more than $30 million in his campaign account and is considered a possible 2020 White House contender. He also has the support of several critical labor unions that have pulled out of the Working Families Party.
Craig Burnett, a political science professor at Hofstra University, said Cuomo remains vulnerable on certain issues, particularly his management of New York City's aging, delay-prone subways. He said Cuomo must also contend with the uncertain impact of Nixon's celebrity and whether voters are looking for someone new after two terms of Cuomo.
"Is there an opening there for Nixon? I think there is," Burnett said. "But this is a tough one. He has the money. He has the know-how. He has the campaign structure. It will be a huge battle for her."