Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was removed from the progressive union-backed Working Families Party (WFP) ballot line for both the June primary and November general election after failing to collect the small required number of signatures needed to qualify.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo lowered the number of signatures needed to qualify for the primary ballot in an executive order as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 15 signatures from voters registered in the party and residing within in the district the candidate is running were required to make the WFP ballot.
The freshman lawmaker submitted only 14 signatures and was automatically challenged by her primary opponent Michelle Caruso-Cabrera. One of the 14 signature was found to be a registered Democrat voter and it was thrown out as a disqualification. Queens Supreme Court Judge Phillip Hom ordered the Board of Elections on Tuesday to remove AOC off the WFP ballot where she would have run unopposed.
Hom said a review of the WFP’s petition filed for Ocasio-Cortez found that it “contained less than the required number of signatures of enrolled party members necessary for party designation.”
“Whoever wins the Democratic Party primary wins this race, but this sends a message,” Martin Connor, a lawyer for Caruso-Cabrera said following the ruling. “The so-called progressive Working Families Party can’t deliver for A.O.C.”
A spokeswoman for Ocasio-Cortez said that the results have “no real impact” towards their re-election campaign, justifying the loss of the ballot line due to the fact the campaign chose to stop collecting signatures amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“There’s no real impact on our race,” Ocasio-Cortez spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said. “Congrats to them for finding technicalities, but it’s not going to change the outcome of the election.”
Connor said the coronavirus pandemic shouldn’t be used as an excuse, added that candidates normally collect many more signatures required to get on the ballot.
“The lesson is get your butt out there the first week and get the signatures,” Connor said.
The Working Families Party is an independent political party that cross-endorses progressive candidates through New York’s fusion voting system that allows endorsement across ballot lines. Under fusion voting, multiple political parties can list the same candidate to help pool the votes for that candidate in the general election. Known as the tea party of the left, the WFP supported Ocasio-Cortez mentor, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during the 2016 election. The Vermont senator describes the progressive party movement as the “closest thing” to “my vision of democratic socialism.”
WFP leaders vowed to actively campaign for Ocasio-Cortez despite being removed from the party’s ballot.
”The Working Families Party is unwavering in our support for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and we believe the congresswoman is the leader of her district and this country needs. We will work hard to ensure she wins her Democratic primary, where elections in the 14th District are always decided,” New York State WFP director Sochie Nnaemeka said in a statement, crying foul for the petition challenge amid the coronavirus pandemic. “As the pandemic was erupting, we did not believe it was appropriate to put canvassers or voters’ health at risk. We stopped collecting signatures — knowing it would not affect our ability to help in the Democratic primary. The Limits on petitioning due to coronavirus have led to numerous ballot challenges, including this one.”
“We believe the Congresswoman is the leader her district and this country needs,” she added. “We will continue to support and campaign for the Congresswoman through Election Day.”
Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC anchorwoman issued a statement announcing the challenge from her campaign resulted in “no Working Families Party Line for AOC.”
“The AOC campaign is in shock. She has hurt working people of the Bronx and Queens with her votes and creates disunity within our party. Her own campaign spokesman ran away from her in March. No wonder why pro-union forces don’t want her and neither do our neighborhoods,” Caruso-Cabrera said in the statement.
The removal from the minor party line is an embarrassment for Ocasio-Cortez. The loss of the ballot line will make no discernible difference in the general election, but should Ocasio-Cortez suffer a shocking defeat to Caruso-Cabrera, who is running an aggressive campaign against the first-term incumbent in June, it possibly could have given her a backup plan to win her seat running under the WFP line.