BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | They endorsed charismatic upstart Zephyr Teachout against Andrew Cuomo in the September Democratic primary. And now the Village Independent Democrats are continuing to snub the governor. Last Thursday the historic Reform Democratic club voted to support Howie Hawkins in the Nov. 4 general election.
While Teachout was a relative political unknown, at least she was a Democrat. What makes the Hawkins endorsement more unusual is that he’s a Green.
However, like Teachout, he’s a strong opponent of fracking. The centerpiece of his campaign is a Green New Deal, under which the state would completely transition to renewable energy within 15 years.
Last Sunday, Hawkins sent out an e-mail release, touting it as the first time ever the venerable Democratic club has backed a third-party candidate.
“I know it is a bold move for any Democratic club to endorse outside the party,” Hawkins said. “But it makes sense as I’m the only candidate who will stand up for the 99% who are getting a raw deal from politicians. I am the only candidate who will ban fracking, and create millions of jobs by moving to 100% clean energy by 2030. And I’m the only candidate that will put a floor on wages with a $15 minimum wage. The endorsement makes sense as I am the only progressive running for governor.”
However, speaking to The Villager this week, V.I.D. President Tony Hoffmann said it actually might not be the club’s first non-Democratic endorsement, though clearly it’s quite a rarity.
“Some people have told me we endorsed John Lindsay when he was running for mayor back in the 1960s as a Republican or Liberal,” he said, “but certainly nothing since Lindsay.”
Hawkins won 12 V.I.D.ers’ votes, while Cuomo got four, and seven members voted “no endorsement.” So, Hawkins essentially won by 12 to 11 — just enough for a majority.
“He got it by one vote,” Hoffmann said. “There were certain issues that resonate very strongly in V.I.D., and I think those issues took the day: fracking, corruption — the Moreland Commission — willingness to tax millionaires and undo the cap on property taxes.”
Hawkins won even though he wasn’t there to speak on his own behalf. Since it’s a Democratic club, they don’t formally invite non-Democrats to address the members, though if they do come, they can speak, Hoffmann noted. Speaking for Hawkins were V.I.D. members Jim Fouratt, John Bredin and Tom Connor. State Senator Brad Hoylman and V.I.D.’s Charles Stimson spoke for Cuomo.
Hoylman touted Cuomo’s achievements, including winning marriage equality in New York and passing the Safe Act gun-control law in 2013, and said Cuomo is following through on his pledge to try to get a Democratic majority in the state Senate.
It was Frieda Bradlow who suggested that the club consider Hawkins.
“He embodies many of our principles, including his strong support of labor and the working man,” Bradlow said. “His opposition to fracking is yet another way that he espouses our efforts.”
Hoffmann admitted he was surprised when Hawkins’s name came up. He said he personally voted “no endorsement,” because, in addition to being a Democratic club president, he simply has never met Hawkins. In fact, according to him, only one club member has met Hawkins face to face. On the other hand, Teachout addressed V.I.D. twice.
“I would say the basic scenario was exactly the same as Zephyr,” Hoffmann explained, “that people are dissatisfied with some of the moderate positions that Cuomo has taken — not same-sex marriage or the gun law, where he used his political capital and muscle to get those passed. But trying to go moderate — that doesn’t work well at V.I.D.”
Asked if the club, in the run-up to the election, would be out campaigning actively for Hawkins like they did for Teachout, Hoffman said it’s up to each club member to do what he or she wants. But he said they will be at the polls on Election Day handing out palm cards featuring Hawkins and his running mate, Brian Jones.
Bredin, for one, is an enthusiastic Hawkins supporter.
“Howie Hawkins represents the kind of strong progressive politics this club has historically stood for,” the longtime V.I.D.er said. “He’s a genuine friend of the working and middle classes.”
Though nothing near the dynamic, high-energy presence of the photogenic Teachout, Hawkins nevertheless has solid progressive cred.
In New York, he ran for Senate in 2006 and for governor in 2010, both times as a Green.
Originally from San Francisco, Hawkins has an eclectic résumé. He has worked as a logger and carpenter and in solar and wind energy, and was an anti-apartheid activist.
Hawkins is also reportedly a Socialist Party member, as well as a Green. For the last decade, he has worked as a truck unloader for UPS, where he is active in the Teamsters.