NEW YORK — New Yorkers going to the polls aren't just voting for president and other elected offices. They're also deciding the future of the state’s Working Families Party (WFP), the enormously influential progressive group.

In recent weeks, a host of New York’s leading Democrats have rallied around the party, and today they were joined by Charles Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader and one of the state’s heaviest political hitters.

The message from Schumer and others: it's not just about voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. It’s how you vote for them.

"What I am telling my fellow New Yorkers: The way to strengthen the progressive agenda is vote on the WFP line,” Schumer said at a news conference in the East Village, where he was joined by other Democratic elected officials.

Filling in the bubble for Biden on Row D, the Working Families line, rather than Row A, the Democratic line, counts the same towards Biden's total. But it has enormous ramifications for the party.

A provision in this year's state budget deal made life much more difficult for third parties, which must now win 130,000 votes on their ballot line or 2% of the total, whichever is higher, in order to retain their automatic ballot line. So the Working Families Party is waging a campaign to get the word out, backed by leading progressives like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The party has for years supported left-leaning Democrats by granting them its ballot line — including Schumer, back in 1998.

"When it was founded, it helped me beat Al D’Amato,” Schumer said. "I was one of the first candidates they've ever endorsed, and we've worked together ever since, and they have always endorsed me, which I appreciate."

The party's continuing support couldn't hurt. Schumer, who will be up for re-election in 2022, has faced increasing pressure from the left in the Trump era.

One leader that's not in the Working Families Party's corner is Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The party backed his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, two years ago, creating a schism. Cuomo subsequently backed the more burdensome rules for third parties.

"We want to make sure on November 4 we send a huge message to Gov. Andrew Cuomo,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, another Working Families supporter. "Reports of the demise of the Working Families Party have been greatly exaggerated."

Meanwhile, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both clashed Tuesday with the New York State Democratic Party over an ad campaign that uses both their images to help promote the message, "Vote Row A All the Way." They believe the campaign is intended to hurt the Working Families Party.


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