With common-sense in the ascendancy in New York and hard-right conservatism ebbing, the WFP has been talking up the party's chances of surpassing the vote total of the Conservative Party. But as New York WFP executive director Dan Cantor observes in the article pasted below from today's New York Sun, "the real battle for the Working Families Party is defeating Republicans," and taking back Congress.
Working Families Party Comes Out for Spitzer, Clinton
By RUSSELL BERMAN
Staff Reporter of the Sun
November 7, 2006
Using Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, and Pete Seeger as its pitchmen, the Working Families Party is making a push to parlay predicted landslides by Eliot Spitzer and Senator Clinton into a boost in standing for one of the state's smallest parties.
Mr. Spitzer and Mrs. Clinton are listed on today's ballot on both the Democratic and the Working Families line, along with the other Democratic candidates for statewide office. A vote on either label would count toward the candidate's total, and leaders in the Working Families are hoping a large turnout by left-leaning voters could send a message to top Democrats who are primed to take office.
The party has spent between $500,000 and $1 million on this election, including about $25,000 on a flier featuring the anti-war activist Mrs. Sheehan, the "Fahrenheit 9/11" filmmaker Mr. Moore, and the aging folk-singer Mr. Seeger. The literature, which was mailed to 86,000 city voters, includes pictures and statements from the three, and it urges New Yorkers to cast their ballot for Mr. Spitzer on the Working Families line.
Voting for Mr. Spitzer on the Working Families line, Mr. Moore is quoted as saying on the flier, "will send a powerful message to the newly-elected Democrats that we expect nothing less than a complete reversal away from that path of death and destruction perpetrated on the world by the Republicans."
The flier has deepened a rift between the Working Families Party and the Green Party, which correctly pointed out that Mrs. Sheehan had endorsed its candidate, the author Malachy McCourt, for governor, as well as Howie Hawkins, its Senate candidate. In response, Mr. Hawkins released a statement from Mrs. Sheehan in which she said she "supports a lot of the work of the Working Families Party" but could not endorse their candidates, especially Mrs. Clinton. "She is not pro-peace, or even anti-war and has been a rubber stamp for George Bush's war of terror," she said in the statement. The Working Families Party said it received permission from each of the celebrities to use their likenesses and quotes.
The flap has highlighted the difference in strategy between the two left-wing parties. While the Working Families Party overwhelmingly cross-endorses Democratic — and occasionally Republican — candidates, the Green Party traditionally offers up its own choices, most notably in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.
"That's the strategy followed by Ralph Nader, and it brought us George Bush. And it's been a calamity," the executive director of the Working Families Party, Daniel Cantor, said in an interview yesterday. Mr. Nader won 2.7% of the popular vote in 2000 and faced derision as a "spoiler" from some Democrats who said he siphoned votes from Vice President Gore, particularly in close states like Florida, handing the election to Mr. Bush.
In an interview, Mr. Hawkins said the Working Families Party was merely "a second line" for the Democrats. "Some political junkies might see how many votes were on the Working Families Party line, but it isn't much of a message," he said.
Founded in 1998 with support from labor unions to push for a higher minimum wage and better health care, the Working Families Party has about 34,000 registered voters, which puts it ahead of only the Marijuana Reform and the Libertarian parties of the labels competing this year. But the party has another goal in mind in today's election: moving higher on the state ballot. Specifically, it wants to leapfrog the Conservative Party and shift into the fourth spot for future elections, a position that could elevate its stature and yield more votes from New Yorkers who are dissatisfied with the Republican and Democratic labels. Vote totals for governor determine the ballot order for the next four years.
Working Families got 90,533 votes in the 2002 gubernatorial election, a little more than half the total of 176,848 ballots for the Conservative Party, which has largely cross-endorsed Republican candidates. With a stronger slate of Democrats running this year, the Working Families Party has a decent shot at overtaking the Conservatives, the dean of the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College, David Birdsell, said.
Mr. Cantor said that would be nice, but it isn't the party's top priority. "The real battle for the Working Families Party is defeating Republicans," he said.