ALBANY – With the state Capitol its most secretive time of the year, Democratic gubernatorial challenger Cynthia Nixon on Monday took her fledgling campaign upstate for the first time and criticized the closed-door nature of state budget talks underway as she spoke just a block up the street.
Ostensibly in Albany to press for more state aid to public schools, Nixon took just moments of a speech at an Albany hotel to slam Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Albany corruption, misplaced spending priorities and for leading an all-male, private set of discussions this week about ways to address the problems of sexual harassment.
Nixon, an actress and activist, later with reporters termed as “disastrous” a 2 percent cap that has been voluntarily imposed on Albany the past eight years and said the state should sharply increase aid to 700 public school districts and not be “so crushingly dependent” on localities to pay for education through property taxes.
Nixon, who last week declared a run against Cuomo, brought up all her campaign’s touch points: She spoke of the recent corruption conviction of longtime Cuomo confidante Joseph Percoco, the impending pay-to-play bribery case involving the Buffalo Billion and other economic development efforts of the Cuomo administration and for what she characterized as Cuomo’s coziness with “Trump Republicans” in the state Senate and their alliance with a breakaway group of Senate Democrats.
“Trump” wasn’t mentioned as often as “Cuomo” in her 15-minute speech, but she returned to a theme trying to link the personalities of the Republican president and Democratic governor.
Nixon said she has seen Cuomo “mansplaining and lecturing women on sexual harassment” and how he has kept Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester County Democrat, out of talks with three legislative leaders concerning efforts to bolster sexual harassment laws in New York.
“It’s Andrew the bully,’’ Nixon said, adding that Cuomo’s “behavior” is something “we see from Donald Trump every day.’’
Before a group of education funding advocates, Nixon kept closely to her written script. Advisers cut off questioning from reporters after just a handful of questions.
Nixon urged budget negotiators to accept a plan advanced by Assembly Democrats to add $1.5 billion for state aid to public schools. But Assembly Democrats were briefed Sunday night to expect the additional aid number this year to total about $1 billion.
Richard Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesman, rejected the education funding criticisms of Nixon. He said state education funding has increased 35 percent since 2012 and that Cuomo this year proposed that more than 80 percent of the main operational aid category of state funding be directed to lower income school districts. He said such high-needs schools got 69 percent of this year’s state aid formula-based aid.
Cuomo and lawmakers are rushing to try to get a state budget adopted by Thursday night or Friday morning in advance of upcoming religious holidays.