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Foss: How Cynthia Nixon could appeal to upstate voters

Foss: How Cynthia Nixon could appeal to upstate voters

Actress comes out swinging
Foss: How Cynthia Nixon could appeal to upstate voters
Cynthia Nixon accepts the Tony for featured actress in a play for “The Little Foxes" in New York on June 11, 2017.
Photographer: SARA KRULWICH/THE NEW YORK TIMES

I've enjoyed watching the actress Cynthia Nixon in movies and television, and now I'm enjoying watching her campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor of New York. 

Nixon's appeal thus far has relied largely in her aggressive approach to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

She has come out swinging, hitting the governor where it hurts, on topics where he's especially vulnerable, such as the Hoosick Falls water crisis and corruption in state government. 

"I have come to Albany mad as hell about Republicans, and I have come to Albany mad as hell about Democrats," Nixon said, during a March visit to Albany. "And now I've come to Albany to join my brothers and sisters here today to say: It's time for a change."  

This is a message that ought to resonate with upstate Democrats, who have never been as enthusiastic about Cuomo as their downstate counterparts. 

There are a lot of reasons for this and one of the biggest is economic: Downstate is thriving, but upstate is not. There are some exceptions -- the Capital Region has actually fared relatively well -- but New York often looks and feels like two different states.  

Cuomo likes to pretend that his economic development programs are having an impact, and that life upstate is getting better. Those of us who live here see things differently: Job growth remains anemic, the population continues to decline and residents continue to struggle with flat wages and a high cost of living. 

This glum state of affairs represents an opportunity for Nixon, as many upstate voters are likely looking for an alternative to Cuomo. 

But she'll need to craft a message and platform that appeals explicitly to upstate residents in order to win their support. 

Right now, Nixon's message is heavily focused on downstate -- her website highlights Cuomo's poor management of the New York City subway system -- and broader liberal concerns such as education spending, criminal justice reform and access to health care. 

Now, there's nothing wrong with focusing on these issues -- the're important! 

But so are the specific concerns of upstate residents: jobs, cost of living, crumbling infrastructure, a graying population. 

From what I've seen, Nixon hasn't really addressed any of these issues. 

But that can change, and I hope it does. 

We need to discuss how best to support small businesses and farms, and build a sustainable local economy without throwing bazillions of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies down the drain. 

That's how Cuomo has attempted to address upstate's lackluster economy, and it hasn't worked. I'd love to hear what his opponent's ideas are for transforming the upstate economy -- for creating jobs and improving wages. 

Jobs and wages are the key to stemming the population loss that has hollowed out many upstate communities, decimating their tax base and eroding their overall quality of life. 

There's no reason Nixon couldn't capture the same disgruntled base of upstate voters that supported law professor Zephyr Teachout when she ran against Cuomo in 2014. 

Teachout made a concerted effort to visit upstate communities and discuss upstate concerns, and I'd love to see Nixon do the same. 

And maybe she will. 

Teachout, it should be noted, is serving as Nixon's campaign treasurer. 

Like Teachout, Nixon faces an uphill battle. 

But Cuomo is vulnerable. 

And a candidate who appeals to both upstate and downstate voters, who speaks to the concerns of people from all corners of the state, could defeat him. 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's. Her blog is at https://dailygazette.com/blogs/thinking-it-through.

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