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Nixon cancels Jay St. Market speech; market cites "politics free zone"

Nixon cancels Jay St. Market speech; market cites "politics free zone"

After confirming an appearance at the market "for planning purposes," the Nixon campaign later said "there was never any plan," and blamed organizers.
Nixon cancels Jay St. Market speech; market cites "politics free zone"
Cynthia Nixon
Photographer: New York Times

SCHENECTADY — Cynthia Nixon's campaign canceled a tentatively planned Sunday speech at the Jay Street Market  Thursday evening after market organizers objected, seeking to maintain a longstanding "politics free zone." 

According to market chairman Richard Maré, no one involved with the market was contacted by the Nixon campaign beforehand, and he found out about the planned speech from a story in The Daily Gazette.

“We get a lot of different organizations looking to set up booths or tables to promote one thing or another, and one of the things we had agreed on pretty early on is to not solicit or sponsor anybody for a certain political affiliation, because we're trying to promote the market as a whole, and all of the merchants, and we're trying not to really alienate anyone," Maré said.

Maré said the policy, which has been in effect since the reformation of the market in 2013, has made a few exceptions in cases where no partisan agenda was in play. 

Nixon is challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary election.

Earlier in the day on Thursday, campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said no one in the campaign, to her knowledge, had reached out to the market, and they were unaware of the "politics free zone" policy beforehand. She said Nixon tentatively would appear at the market on Sunday at 11 a.m., although the campaign could not "officially confirm" the upstate stop by that point Thursday afternoon.

A few hours later, after a version of this article was published online on Thursday evening, Hitt said via text message that "there was never any plan" to speak at the market, and that the Citizen Action spokesman who confirmed the event to The Daily Gazette on Wednesday, Ravi Mangla, "was incorrect" in confirming the event. Citizen Action had a Facebook event page indicating Nixon would be the only speaker at the Jay Street Market. 

"Cynthia never had any plans to speak at the market," Hitt said Thursday evening after confirming the visit "for planning purposes" earlier in the day. "The campaign completely understands their no politics rule. A partner organization [Citizen Action NY] helping with her trip inaccurately told the media that she was speaking -- he misunderstood -- she is speaking at a nearby venue." 

Hitt would not go into any further detail about where or what that venue would be.

Generally, farmers markets are considered "traditional public forums" where free speech is protected, which Maré did not dispute. However, he said he would have appreciated a "heads up" from the Nixon campaign and Citizen Action, and a sense of respect for a local tradition that brings people from different political backgrounds together to support local merchants. 

"It would just be nice to be in the loop and know what’s going on there," Maré said. 

An alternative, Maré suggested, would be for Nixon to make her speech from the steps of City Hall or another public forum away from the market. 

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said Nixon would not need a permit to give a speech or host a rally on the City Hall steps. The mayor added that he was aware of the market's no politics policy and said that, while he hopes Nixon will honor that, he will "wish her the best," and plans on voting for Cuomo in the primary on Sept. 6.

The Nixon campaign also said it plans to visit Saratoga Springs on Sunday. Hitt said the plan was for Nixon to make an appearance at noon or 1 p.m. in the Spa City, but would not specify any further.

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Jake Lahut at 518-322-2358, [email protected] or @JakeLahut on Twitter.

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