Almost two weeks after wealthy liberal attorney Daniel Goldman was narrowly declared the winner of the Democratic primary in New York’s 10th Congressional District, the activist he defeated by just more than two points, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, announced that she would not challenge Goldman on the Working Families Party line and conceded the race.
Niou broke a lot of hearts among her supporters and volunteers, the “friends, family and neighbors” who powered her campaign, many of whom clamored for her to run against Goldman in the general election. She explained why she would not in an emotional seven-minute video released on Twitter Monday night.
“I know that this is not what many of you were hoping to hear, and it was not what I was hoping to say,” she told supporters. The first two minutes of Niou’s video sounded like she might still be running, as she ticked off a list of the 10th district’s top problems and called for “a government that works for the people.” Then she moved on. Admitting she was “angry” at the many vagaries of the race—electoral neophyte Dan Goldman spending almost $5 million of his own money; progressives failing to unite around one candidate; the unusual, low-turnout late-August primary—she nonetheless came to her point.
“We are conceding the primary, and I will not be on the WFP line for the general. We simply do not have the resources to fight all fights at the same time, and we must protect our democracy now,” she declared.
At about the same time, the WFP released its own statement. “After careful deliberation between Yuh-Line and the WFP, Yuh-Line will not be a candidate in the general election in NY-10,” Sochie Nnaemeka, WFP state director, said. “As we approach November, we’ll collectively turn our efforts to defending our democracy against an increasingly extremist GOP.”
The WFP has steadily rebuilt since former Governor Andrew Cuomo declared war against it for encouraging a primary run against him by attorney Zephyr Teachout in 2014. But it has mostly focused on supporting progressive primary challengers to mainstream or conservative Democrats—and then playing nice in the general. Challenging a primary winner, especially one as strong as Goldman is—he’s got not only his millions to spend but the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and much of the region’s congressional delegation—would have been an enormous risk for the party. It has never challenged a Democratic primary winner on its independent ballot line.
“We have always been sober about the structural barriers we face when running grass-roots candidates against the power of immense wealth,” Nnaemeka said in her statement.
I wrote the week after the primary: “A general election race between Goldman and Niou would be fascinating. It would also be a political bloodbath. I don’t think the country needs that heading into these crucial midterm elections.” Niou and the WFP reluctantly concluded the same.
Niou gave up her Assembly seat to run for Congress and has not said what she plans next (she did not reply to an on-deadline request for comment). In her video, she urged her supporters to stay involved with the WFP and to keep working not only to maintain Democratic control of Congress, but “for a Congress that will finally care about us, because it will be made up of us.”