ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — An internal document from the left-leaning Working Families Party shows just how close Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to losing the party's endorsement.
The three-page memo, marked confidential and obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday, indicates the party was "mere minutes away" from giving its nomination for governor to Fordham University Law professor Zephyr Teachout before it gave the nomination to Cuomo at its convention on Saturday.
"In the past few days, the decision has seen critics from a number of corners," the memo reads, before going on to rebut claims that the party was wrong to endorse Cuomo or has no way to ensure he lives up to his promises.
The Working Families Party is a coalition of unions and progressives and has emerged as a leading liberal voice in New York, helping to elect Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Some party members have questioned Cuomo's liberal credentials and criticized his business-friendly tax policies.
Polls show Cuomo's substantial lead over Republican Rob Astorino would be cut in half if he were also to face a Working Families candidate in the fall election.
In the memo, party spokesman Khan Shoieb defended the endorsement of Cuomo, saying that in exchange the party was able to extract promises that the governor would work to return control of the state Senate to Democrats and support several liberal causes including a minimum-wage hike, a broad public campaign financing system and the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana.
The document says party leaders only agreed to back Cuomo after he spelled out his promises in a phone call to party members.
"The WFP's steadfast commitment to its values and priorities brought the party mere minutes away from endorsing Zephyr Teachout for Governor," the memo reads. "With the help of Mayor de Blasio's leadership, Governor Cuomo finally delivered, over the phone... But absent the phone call, the Working Families Party may very well have emerged from the Convention with Zephyr Teachout as its candidate."
Shoieb declined to comment on the memo Tuesday night.