Letitia James: Andrew Cuomo ‘Got the Memo’ About Income Inequality

Public Advocate Letitia James during a January council meeting. (Photo: Official NYC Council/William Alatriste.)

Public Advocate Letitia James during a January council meeting. (Photo: Official NYC Council/William Alatriste).

Public Advocate Letitia James said last night that she believed Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who won 62 percent of the vote against a badly underfunded opponent, finally “got the memo” about the importance of income inequality to New York voters.

In April, Ms. James lamented to the Observer that Mr. Cuomo’s failure to support campaign finance reform and giving New York City the power to set its minimum wage, even in the wake of 2013’s progressive insurgency, was a sign that “obviously he didn’t receive the memo on income inequality.”

But last night, at a retirement party at Brooklyn’s Dyker Beach Golf Course for Rabbi Yechezkel Pikus of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush, Ms. James said she believed law professor Zephyr Teachout’s surprisingly strong 34 percent showing in the Democratic primary had finally forwarded the memorandum to the governor’s desk.

“I think he got the memo,” Ms James told the Observer, laughing. “Something tells me he got the memo, and something tells me he read it!”

Despite her disappointment in Mr. Cuomo’s priorities so far, however, Mr. James said she fully intended to back his re-election effort. The public advocate said she believed the Republican candidate for governor, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, is too conservative for her to support.

“The alternative option is a non-starter,” Ms. James, a proud liberal, told the Observer. “His policies on choice, his policies on urban issues, his policies on all the issues that I care about are just counter to my own and counter to those of the constituents I represent, and that is why I am proudly supporting Andrew Cuomo for governor.”

Unlike her allies Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who both campaigned for the governor despite publicly clashing with him earlier in the year, Ms. James did not endorse Mr. Cuomo during the run-up to the primary. She refused to say, however, if she would have preferred to see Ms. Teachout triumph.

“Don’t you go there!” Ms. James told the Observer, laughing again.

Mr. Cuomo’s camp did not immediately respond to requests for comment.