Quinn defends Hochul and Cuomo’s women’s line

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Rally for Kathy Hohcul. (Sally Goldenberg)
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A fired-up Christine Quinn returned to City Hall eight months after leaving office as City Council speaker to campaign for Governor Andrew Cuomo's running mate, Kathy Hochul, and tout the emergence of a third-party dedicated to women's issues.

"We have far exceeded the requirement of what is need to get our statewide and Senate candidates on the ballot," Quinn shouted into a microphone at the outdoor press conference Tuesday morning. "And what does that mean? It means there will be a place on the ballot for women and women's families and women's supporters to make a statement that our rights matter, to make a statement that New York—a place that was the birthplace of the women's rights movement—it's not OK that in this state we don't have a Women's Equality Act." 

Surrounded by dozens of elected officials and activists, Hochul then announced the Women's Equality Party has received more than 100,000 signatures in a recent petitioning drive.

"We're going to make sure we elect Governor Cuomo, we elect lieutenant-governor Kathy Hochul, we elect Eric Schneiderman, we elect Tom DiNapoli and we elect a fully pro-choice New York State Senate and Assembly," Quinn added.

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Hochul, a former Erie County congresswoman, said the number of signatures is "a statement of where this state is going."

"New York State is the progressive capital of the nation. When New York State takes action, the rest of the country follows," the soft-spoken Hochul added.

Others who spoke at the lively press conference included Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Jerry Nadler, Queens borough president Melinda Katz and John Zaccaro, the son of the late Geraldine Ferraro.

"When I see President Obama, he always stops and asks me what's happening in New York?" Maloney said. "Even China's asking! When I went over to get the pandas, what's happening in New York? Everybody watches New York because New York has been the leader."

"As a father and an attorney, I'm shocked and dismayed by the fact that we're still talking about women's equality in 2014," said Zaccaro standing beside his daughter at the podium.

If 50,000 New Yorkers vote for Cuomo and Hochul this year on the Women's Equality Party ballot line, it will become an official third party.

Quinn declined to specify how the party would govern itself if it received the requisite number of votes in November, saying it's too soon to discuss those specifics since it hasn't been formed yet.

"When we get to that point, we're happy to have the conversation about that but we're not there yet," she added.

Hochul later noted that the party is Cuomo's brainchild, when asked why a party dedicated to women's rights is not endorsing the female candidate for governor: Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor who is running to his left in the Democratic primary.

"Well, the governor initiated the line," she told reporters following the press conference.

She said the would-be party will be "open to anyone who wants to petition to get on there."

So far, the party has been partial to candidates who support the Women's Equality Agenda, Hochul added.

The Women's Equality Party is being formed by Democrats who back Cuomo and want to push abortion law changes as part of a 10-point package of bills Cuomo unveiled in 2013. Republicans in the State Senate, who Cuomo has generally praised for their coalition government, have refused to bring the abortion bill to a floor vote.

Some critics, including Teachout's running mate, Tim Wu, described the effort as a "sham."

"When Kathy Hochul was in Congress, she voted to eliminate breast and cervical cancer screenings for hundreds of thousands of women," Wu said in a press release emailed to reporters during the press conference. "She's a Republican running in a Democratic primary, trying to get on the general election ballot through a sham party. None of it will work."

When asked to respond to that statement, Quinn took the lead, dodging the issue and instead accusing Wu of being uncommitted to women's rights, based on a quote from him in the Daily Beast on Monday.

"Net neutrality is like women's suffrage in the teens or '20s. It's its own little issue. In the '20s, most people didn't care about women's issues, except for women's groups. That's what it's like with net neutrality," Wu said, according to the article.

"So that's the same Tim Wu—let's be clear—that's the very same Tim Wu who called the suffrage movement a 'little issue,'" Quinn said. "So I don't really have any regard for what Tim Wu has to say about what Kathy Hochul has done for women." Quinn also called on Wu to "apologize to the legacy of Susan B. Anthony."

Only when pressed for her own response did Hochul hesitatingly address Wu's criticism. She called the vote he referenced a "set-up vote," saying the issue was tied by Republican leadership to a bill to reduce student loans that were set to double, so she had to vote against the screenings in order to lower the loans.