ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York state’s second-largest public-sector union endorsed Zephyr Teachout’s long-shot bid to oust Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday, while the state’s powerful teachers’ union announced it will sit out this year’s governor’s race.
The Public Employees Federation represents 54,000 state workers who mainly work in white-collar positions. Union President Susan Kent said the union was taking a “bold step” by backing Teachout and her running mate, lieutenant governor candidate Tim Wu.
“They are the leadership this state needs, that public workers need,” Kent said.
The New York State United Teachers opted to withhold an endorsement in the race after a spirited debate by members, according to Andrew Pallotta, the union’s executive vice president.
Teachout, a liberal law professor at Fordham University, has threatened to upend Cuomo’s hope to win a second term by huge margins and highlighted the discomfort some liberals have with the governor, who has backed gay marriage and gun control but also business-friendly tax policies and charter schools.
The Public Employees Federation — which endorsed Cuomo in 2010 — has had a contentious relationship with the governor since a difficult contract negotiation in 2011.
The teachers union, which didn’t make an endorsement in the 2010 race, has sparred with Cuomo over teacher evaluations, the Common Core standards and his support for charter schools.
Pallotta said hundreds of members gathered for three days this week to debate the union’s endorsements in more than 200 political races this year before deciding not to weigh in on governor or lieutenant governor.
“Everybody has an opinion, and believe me, everybody stated it,” he told The Associated Press. “It was a lively discussion. … The members were on different sides of that race.”
The union did endorse the re-election of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, both Democrats.
This year’s other candidates for governor include Republican Rob Astorino and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins. Polls show Cuomo, whose running mate is former Buffalo congresswoman Kathy Hochul, with a commanding lead.