ALBANY—New York Democrats are looking for a new way to party.
Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs said Monday that he hopes creating a new party will help keep things fair for Gov. Hochul on the November ballot.
Jacobs told the Daily News his push for the creation of a new Dem-centered third party, dubbed the “Fair Deal Party,” is meant to even things out and ensure the governor will have her name on at least two ballot lines this fall if she wins the Democratic primary, the same as her eventual Republican challenger.
“The reality is the Republicans have two lines. Right now, Kathy Hochul, who we expect will win the Democratic primary, will have one line guaranteed,” Jacobs said.
Candidates in New York can run on more than one line, a concept known as fusion voting, and Republicans often also run on the Conservative Party ballot line.
The progressive Working Families Party, which often but not always aligns with Dems, is currently backing New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams in his bid to unseat Hochul. Should he lose the Democratic primary, Williams could remain on the ballot in November under the WFP banner.
Jacobs said that the possibility prompted the push for a new party as he brushed off criticisms that he is attempting to pick a fight with progressives.
“This is not about a philosophical argument attacking the left. It’s not about that,” he said. “It’s not always about the far left.
“Had the Working Families Party not given its line to Jumaane Williams but given it to Kathy Hochul, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” he added.
Ravi Mangla, a spokesman for the WFP, pushed back on Jacobs’ assertions.
“Jay Jacobs knows our party has never played the role of spoiler and that defeating Trump Republicans in the general election is a cornerstone of our strategy,” Mangla said. “This is just an excuse to create a fake party to benefit Jay’s hand-picked candidates.”
Jacobs said a handful of incumbent state Dems may choose to run on the new line, which he believes will have the added benefit of allowing some Republicans to pull the lever for someone outside of their party.
To gain a ballot line, the Fair Deal party will have to collect 45,000 signatures for Hochul between April 24 and May 31, the period for circulating independent nominating petitions.
Should the party receive 130,000 votes or 2% of the overall ballots cast in November, it will maintain its ballot line for the next two years.
Hochul, who ruffled progressive feathers during her push for bail law overhauls in the budget, said she was open to the idea last week.
“It’s certainly in the early stages of consideration. But you want to make sure you have all the options out there. And to make sure that you have a level playing field,” the governor told reporters. “They have more lines, and you want to make sure you are competitive. This is about winning in November.”
Jacobs said Hochul will be getting more involved in the process in the coming days.
Critics have drawn comparisons between Jacobs’ proposal and disgraced former governor Andrew Cuomo’s creation of the now-defunct Women’s Equality Party in 2014. The WEP was considered little more than a front for the Cuomo campaign to draw voters away from the Working Families Party.
“I put that in the category of shenanigans,” Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) said when asked about the new party earlier this month. “Coming from the chair of an actual party to suggest creating a different party seems like something very peculiar to me.”
Meanwhile, Republican gubernatorial candidate Harry Wilson is also eyeing an independent ballot line for the November election. A group titled Unite NY plans on assisting Wilson to collect signatures as Long Island’s Rep. Lee Zeldin (RN.Y.) is favored to win the Republican primary.
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“We welcome New Yorkers of all political persuasion to join us as we seek fundamental change by shifting power away from Party bosses and back into the hands of the people casting votes at the ballot box where it belongs,” Unite NY founder Martin Babinec said in a statement.