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Actress Cynthia Nixon Challenges N.Y. Gov. Cuomo; GOP See Opportunity


The race for the Democratic nomination for governor of New York got a whole lot more interesting this week. Governor Andrew Cuomo is still far ahead in the polls. But he's being challenged by Cynthia Nixon, the actress and political activist probably best known for her role in "Sex And The City." And one of the governor's supporters criticized Ms. Nixon in a peculiar, if quote-worthy way. Brigid Bergin, City Hall and politics reporter for WNYC, joins us. Thanks so much for being with us, Brigid.

BRIGID BERGIN, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: And remind us of what Christine Quinn, former candidate for mayor, said.

BERGIN: She said to the New York Post, one of the city's tabloids, that Ms. Nixon was an unqualified lesbian. Christine Quinn is openly gay, ran for mayor of New York City in 2013 against Bill de Blasio, our current mayor, who Cynthia Nixon supported. And she was trying to draw the comparison that Nixon did not support her, someone who was qualified. And she does not think that Nixon has the qualifications to be governor.

SIMON: Christine Quinn, I guess, essentially explained it in a way as an attempt at humor that just fell flat.

BERGIN: Yes. But the Nixon campaign has seized this phrase and talking about how when Quinn made that comment, technically, she was correct, that she didn't have her papers from the office of lesbian affairs. But in her defense, there is a lot of paperwork.

SIMON: (Laughter). Well, let's get to the unqualified part, though. Will Cynthia Nixon's lack of experience in government be seen in this primary as something that will hurt her candidacy or possibly help against a two-term incumbent?

BERGIN: I think in the Democratic primary, there are folks who are interested in someone who comes from outside of government. You see that from people who were activated in 2016 by the Bernie Sanders campaign and who, you know, look at some of the Democratic establishment as people who have allowed some of the policies that they think need to be changed to persist for years and years.

SIMON: Any concern that you hear from Democrats that the winner of the Democratic primary might be pushed so far to one side of the political paradigm, if you please, that it will be difficult for them to win votes upstate which, you know, is different than New York City?

BERGIN: Absolutely. I think what's most interesting is, at this point, so many current Democratic-elected officials are not weighing in with an endorsement of either candidate. And that's unusual when you consider that Governor Cuomo has been in office for two terms. You know, he does have a record of progressive accomplishments to run on. He passed same-sex marriage, increased the minimum wage, paid family leave, strengthened gun regulations. And so I think, for voters, the good thing about this means there will be a debate. There will be a conversation about issues. And that's important.

SIMON: And Governor Cuomo is looking not just to be re-elected but by such a margin he becomes a national candidate for president. Isn't he?

BERGIN: Oh, absolutely. It's very hard to have a conversation about what is impacting Governor Cuomo's decision-making process these days without seeing it through the lens of a 2020 potential run for president. Having a difficult primary campaign for his gubernatorial re-election may make that more difficult.

SIMON: Brigid Bergin, City Hall and politics reporter at WNYC - thanks so much.

BERGIN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF DESSA'S "DIXON'S GIRL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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