Mayor, speaker tout Hochul’s ‘progressive values’
Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, two self-described progressives, rallied for lieutenant governor candidate Kathy Hochul on Wednesday afternoon, despite their differences with the former congresswoman on guns and immigration.
Outside City Hall, Hochul's latest group of supporters, including about ten council members, emphasized her left-leaning positions on a handful of issues, including support for abortion, a minimum wage hike and same-sex marriage. They also hailed her as an unabashed opponent of the Tea Party and a strong supporter of women's rights.
"When Kathy served in Congress, she stood up for progressive values, even when it was not politically popular in a conservative district," Mark-Viverito said. "And even though she paid the ultimate price for her political courage, Kathy never wavered from her Democratic values."
Hochul represented Erie County in Congress and lost her seat to Republican Chris Collins in 2012. She previously served as the Erie County clerk, where she rose to prominence opposing Eliot Spitzer's plan to offer driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.
The state's Democratic establishment, led by Governor Andrew Cuomo, has rallied to Hochul's defense in recent weeks, in the face of a surprisingly strong challenge from Columbia law professor Tim Wu, who has highlighted her relatively conservative record in Congress.
De Blasio opened his remarks by noting that Mark-Viverito, whom he called "an uncompromising person in the best sense," wholeheartedly supports Hochul.
"So when she says that someone is a progressive, is going to make a difference, that means a lot to me," he said.
The mayor then spoke of the underdog status he and Hochul have shared over the years, and highlighted some select aspects of her record, including her fight against the opening of a Walmart in her district and her support for the Affordable Care Act.
"It's pretty clear … the reason she did not win reelection is that she courageously supported the continuation of Obamacare," he added. (Hochul cited her votes against portions of the bill when running for reelection in 2012.)
De Blasio also touted her experience and shrugged off a mention of Wu, who recently received the endorsement of the New York Times.
"I don't know Tim Wu at all to be honest with you, but I know Kathy Hochul," he said. "I know her work. I've watched her work for a while."
When he was asked pointedly about Hochul's support for the Second Amendment, de Blasio, who is grappling with a recent increase in shootings, implied gun control should be taken up on the federal level and said, "I don't expect to agree with every candidate on every issue, but I do know we're moving in the right direction."
Hochul, who previously enjoyed an A-rating from the National Rifle Association, insisted there is nothing incongruous with backing both Governor Andrew Cuomo's "Safe Act," a gun-control measure following the Sandy Hook school shooting, and the Second Amendment.
"It's a big state, folks," she said, highlighting the popularity of deer hunting in her region.
Supporting the Safe Act, she added, "is not inconsistent" with standing up for hunters' rights to bear arms.
"This is not inconsistent and I'm going to continue supporting those initiatives," she said.
When asked directly whether she supports New York City's recent passage of a municipal identification card program, which Mark-Viverito and de Blasio made a joint priority earlier this year, Hochul simply said she thinks municipalities should individually handle that issue.
She also repeated her explanation for previously bucking the call for driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants, insisting she was protecting her constituents from terrorists in Canada hoping to gain entry to New York.
"It was a narrow issue of national security," she said.
"I understand now there's a different sentiment here. I get that," she added, and said she is "open-minded" on the driver's license issue.
"You call me anti-immigrant at your own peril," she warned reporters.
De Blasio and Mark-Viverito did not interject as Hochul answered questions about the program, and the mayor did not respond to a reporter who repeatedly called out to him—after the press conference ended and as he was walking away—asking him to react to Hochul's position on the municipal ID law.