Zephyr Teachout, with her roots in the insurgent Howard Dean presidential campaign, ties to the Occupy movement and history of spirited activism of democracy issues, reflects the inside-outside sensibility of many progressives who have maintained a frustrated relationship with the Democratic Party.
She’s worked inside the party, developing groundbreaking online strategies for Dean’s 2004 campaign, yet she has been outspoken in her criticism of Democrats who fail to uphold progressive values. Just two weeks ago, after Federal Communications Commission chair Tom Wheeler advanced a proposal that would undermine net neutrality, Teachout wrote a Politico piece headlined “Obama Should Fire His FCC Chair.”
And Teachout has been at odds with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, pressuring the business-friendly Democrat to use his political muscle to reform campaign finance laws and reduce the influence of corporate cash on elections and government. Cuomo has disappointed plenty of progressives in New York, not just on the campaign finance issue but on everything from fracking to education policy. And now there is a prospect that Teachout will offer them an alternative on the ballot line of the state’s Working Families Party.
“It feels like Cuomo is part of this broken system, and he is not going to fix it,” she says. “Voters in New York want a real choice, and right now, with just [Republican Rob] Astorino and Cuomo—they seem to just be fighting about who can give more tax breaks to the billionaires.”
The tech-savvy academic, who teaches law at Fordham University, is up with a website on which she declares, “I’m running because New Yorkers need an economy and democracy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected.” She’s identifying herself as the “Working Families Democrat for Governor.”
The WFP has not yet committed to back a Teachout run. But the party’s leadership will debate the prospect this weekend.