- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo won a second term after promising liberals he would fight to raise the minimum wage, protect abortion rights and pass public campaign financing.

But now that agenda faces longer odds after Tuesday’s election saw Republicans win a majority in the state Senate, and some liberals are questioning whether New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and groups like the Working Families Party made a foolish bargain with him.

Senate Republicans have blocked many of the same proposals Cuomo swore to advance, and they’ll return to Albany in January with an even firmer grip on power.

Cuomo defeated Republican Rob Astorino 54 percent to 41 percent. The race would have been much closer if Cuomo hadn’t won over liberals who had threatened to revolt against the governor, whose backing of same-sex marriage and gun control is tempered by his support for tax cuts for the wealthy and charter schools.

Now those same liberals are questioning whether Cuomo could have done more to help Democrats win the Senate - and ensure the passage of the very priorities he vowed to fight for.

Cuomo performed well in New York City and its suburbs but not elsewhere, narrowly winning Buffalo’s Erie County and losing most other parts of upstate and rural New York to Astorino.

In the final days of the campaign Cuomo appeared to dismiss the very liberals whose support proved crucial to his win, referring to the influential Working Families Party as a “fringe” group after creating a new Women’s Equality Party that had the effect of undermining its power at the polls.

“Governor Cuomo promised to take back the state Senate,” said Working Families Party director Bill Lipton. “Instead, he squandered millions on a fake party and left millions more in his campaign account as New York Democrats in the Legislature and in Congress withered on the vine.”

In his victory speech, Cuomo repeated his support for liberal causes, including a higher minimum wage, a codification of federal abortion rights in state law and the extension of financial aid to students in the country without legal documentation.

It would almost certainly take significant arm-twisting to get those preferred measures passed now. Though Democrats retained control of the Assembly, Republicans picked up two seats Tuesday in the Senate for a total of 32 in the 63-member body.

The Cuomo campaign chalked up the GOP’s Senate wins as part of the national wave of Republican victories around the nation and said Cuomo worked hard to help the Democrats.

“The governor spent over $1 million on a coordinated campaign to help Democrats take back the Senate, endorsed nearly every candidate and held numerous rallies with candidates,” said campaign spokesman Matt Wing.

Tuesday’s Senate outcome represented a major defeat for de Blasio, who put significant energy and political capital behind Senate Democrats. Republicans made the mayor a political target, warning voters of what they said was outsize influence from downstate.

Cuomo’s problems with liberals were highlighted at the Working Families Party convention, where law professor Zephyr Teachout posed a strong challenge for its endorsement. Cuomo prevailed, but Teachout went on to mount a surprisingly strong challenge in the Democratic primary.

The party, or WFP, is a coalition of labor groups and activists. It’s one of several third-party organizations that, under New York law, can endorse major party candidates. The party has emerged as a potent force in New York politics, helping to elect de Blasio and others.

The party’s endorsement of Cuomo - along with de Blasio’s backing - helped Cuomo cement his Democratic base. The party saw it as a way to further its agenda and ensure a Democratic Senate.

But Cuomo proved to be less than grateful. While he publicly backed Democratic Senate candidates, he made relatively few campaign appearances. And Working Families Party leaders said he could have shared more of his campaign resources - his $45 million campaign account was the largest in the country, and overwhelmed Astorino’s resources 9-to-1.

Last week on public radio, Cuomo called the Working Families Party a “fringe” party and derisively joked about the “working short people’s party.”

The comment, and the election, showed that while the campaign may be over, Cuomo’s problems with liberals will continue.

“I think Cuomo wants the Working Families Party dead,” said former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky. “There’s no doubt about that.”

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