As everyone who has paid a modicum of attention to New York politics in recent years knows, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo really, really don’t like each other. The two have feuded over everything from matters large, like New York City’s moribund subway system (Cuomo has tried to fob off blame for the deteriorating system onto de Blasio) to matters … less large (the two once disagreed about whether to euthanize a deer).
And yet, de Blasio said on Saturday that he would not endorse a candidate in the Democratic gubernatorial primary race between Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon. New Yorkers go to the polls on Thursday.
“I believe endorsing a candidate in these races is, at this moment, counterproductive,” de Blasio said in a statement. “My vote Thursday will be between me and my ballot.”
The mayor offered hedged praise for both candidates, writing that Nixon’s “presence in this primary has created real momentum for reform” and that Cuomo “deserves credit” for raising New York’s minimum wage and pushing forward marriage equality and paid family leave.
“My philosophical differences with Governor Cuomo are no secret,” de Blasio said. “But at the end of the day, it is without question that there is more that unites us than divides us.”
Nixon was an early supporter of de Blasio’s mayoral campaign in 2013, and the two are personal friends. Politically speaking, de Blasio, who has attempted to position himself as a national figure in the progressive movement, takes a dim view of Cuomo’s abiding centrism. But it’s true that endorsing Nixon would constitute a sharp blow to Cuomo that would further deteriorate the already fraught working relationship between mayor and governor.
The real reason for his non-endorsement, though, may simply be that Nixon is very unlikely to win. The last recent polls in the race show her more than 30 points behind Cuomo, though Nixon can point to two recent upset congressional primaries — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts — where public surveys failed to capture an insurgent challenger’s momentum.
Nixon said last week that she did not expect, nor was she seeking, the mayor’s stamp of approval, and in doing so scored a point against her opponent.
“I think frankly it would be a difficult thing for the mayor to do, because we know how famously vindictive the governor is,” she said. “If de Blasio endorsed, I would worry about the repercussions for New York City residents.”