How an ‘Invisible’ Candidate Pushed NY to the Left


– I both was totally
disappointed that I lost and blown away that we got 34%. It just showed that
there’s this, like hunger for a very different kind of politics. – [Narrator] In 2014,
Zephyr Teachout ran against incumbent Andrew Cuomo for the
New York governor’s office. (crowd chatters)
She didn’t win. But her campaign changed
the course of the race and New York politics.
(claps hands) – I’m a law professor. I have this name that sounds
like a computer program. (chuckles) I don’t have
deep grassroots backing in any area, but Andrew
Cuomo was about to run unopposed for governor. And he is unbelievably problematic. Something remarkable needed
to happen, like an indictment (chuckles) to be able to win. But it was so important to be running. (mellow electronic music) (crowd applauds)
I have organized to take big money out of politics. And if Governor Andrew
Cuomo wants to quibble about whether or not this was illegal, he can have that conversation. But this is about what is wrong. – [Narrator] She had less money and virtually zero name recognition. But her campaign was even harder because Cuomo refused to acknowledge her. He wouldn’t participate in a debate. And a video of him
ignoring her went viral. – [Man] Where’s Mayor Bill de Blasio? Where’s the mayor when you need him? – [Narrator] He couldn’t
even bring himself to say her name out loud. – It was like Voldemort. If he said my name, terrible
things would happen. I was a Democratic candidate
with very, very serious disagreements about economic development, about education, about the M.T.A., how we fund elections,
about millionaires tax. And Andrew Cuomo’s entire project was to say I did not exist. – [Narrator] Cuomo wasn’t
the only one ignoring her. – If you asked me to bet $1,000 on who would be the Democratic nominee for governor of New York,
I would not bet on you. – [Narrator] The media
wasn’t paying attention for the majority of her campaign. A month before the election,
nearly 90% of voters didn’t know much about her.
(upbeat band music) Teachout even told New York One that she felt like an invisible woman. – I mean, I talked to
reporters who would say, “We can’t cover you.” If we held a press conference, it was usually our own camera there. There was this moment where
Andrew Cuomo actually sued me, saying that I wasn’t a New Yorker. He lost. But when we left the courthouse that day, for the first time, we weren’t on our own. It doesn’t really make sense for a sitting incumbent governor to be attacking an underdog like me unless he’s really
worried about something. It was more like you’re
chipping and you’re chipping and you’re chipping away. And then suddenly, the platform shifts. And you’re kind of in a race. We haven’t done any internal polls, and the press hasn’t done any polls. But we know Andrew Cuomo is polling. And it’s a big ask, to ask
Hillary Clinton to do something. So we don’t whether he traded away his presidential bid for this robocall, but we know that he’s scared. The minute I started
running, you could feel that there had been a sleeping giant that was just waking up. Our campaign was part of that, but it was happening
all around the country. In New York, it was
teachers and fracktivists and then just people
who had this bottled up combination of hope and
rage, love, imagination and were just ready for radical change. With three-quarters of a million dollars, in three months, here’s what we achieved. – [Narrator] She was able to
pick up a third of the vote, highlighting the progressives
growing dissatisfaction with Andrew Cuomo and pushing his platform farther left on key issues. – We collectively, really
shook up Andrew Cuomo, made him rightly scared of this rising, powerful, progressive energy. Helps with the push in Fight for 15, helped with the push in the fracking ban. It is never one campaign. It is never like the individual. But I’m proud of the fact
that we were part of that. (lively band music)
And in some ways, the greatest victory is the way in which Nixon’s campaign and
our campaign and other insurgents’ campaigns
(crowd cheers and applauds) have led to new people coming
into New York politics. In 2014, I feel like I was
just kind of a curiosity. Like what is that strange thing happening over there? (chuckles) And now, organizers and
activists are running for office across the country. It is not a curiosity. It is part of being an activist. And this tool, which for
too long was left to rust, electoral politics, is now
being used like a sharp spear. (suspenseful band music)

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