Cuomo supporters get signatures for ‘Women’s Equality’ line

07/21/2014 8:00 AM |
Southold Town trustee candidate Abigail Field, left, of Cutchogue signs a petition to create the Women's Equality Party line. The petition was being circulated by a group of fellow Democrats at the King Kullen in Cutchogue Sunday, including Jennifer Maertz of Rocky Point, center, and local committeewoman Lynn Summers of Southold.

Southold Town trustee candidate Abigail Field, left, of Cutchogue signs a petition to create the Women’s Equality Party line. The petition was being circulated by a group of fellow Democrats at the King Kullen in Cutchogue Sunday, including Jennifer Maertz of Rocky Point, center, and local committeewoman Lynn Summers of Southold.

Days after lieutenant governor candidate Kathy Hochul announced she and Gov. Andrew Cuomo intend to run on a new Women’s Equality Party line, local Democrats were out collecting signatures to make sure the line gets added to the ballot in time for the November election.

At a rally in New York City Thursday, Ms. Hochul, a former Democratic Congresswoman from Western New York, said she and the governor are forming the new ballot line to “mobilize women and supporters all across the state” following the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on contraceptives and the failure of the New York State Legislature to pass the Women’s Equality Act, according to Capital New York.

Supporters statewide need to gather 15,000 valid signatures this week to establish the party, which would give the governor a fourth spot on the ballot along with the Democratic, Independence and Working Families lines. It also gives other Democratic state candidates a shot at an extra line on the ballot.

Jennifer Maertz, a former Democratic state Senate candidate and an activist on women’s rights issues, was in Cutchogue Sunday collecting signatures and speaking with potential voters about the new party platform. She said she wasn’t there representing the governor, but rather as a Suffolk Democrat hoping to bring attention to the issue.

“It’s exciting to be able to put the party line on the ballot and bring attention to women’s issues,” said Ms. Maertz, an attorney from Rocky Point, who was joined in Cutchogue by a handful of other local Democrats, including Southold Town Democratic Committee chairman Art Tillman and trustee candidate Abigail Field.

The announcement of the new party line comes weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court, citing religious rights, ruled that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. That decision came after the New York State Legislature failed to pass the Women’s Equality Act, which Gov. Cuomo said would close the gap between men’s and women’s salaries, introduce zero-tolerance rules against sexual harassment, fight workplace discrimination due to gender and protect abortion rights.

State Republicans opposed the series of 10 bills in large part because one of the measure’s provisions would have strengthened abortion rights language in state law.

Ms. Maertz said she believes Democrats have a good chance of securing a voting majority in the Senate for 2015 and she believes that will lead the state to approve the Women’s Equality Act in the near future.

“I think we’ll have the majority to get it done,” she said.

In a press release issued Thursday in opposition to the creation of the Women’s Equality Party line, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino said “the provisions in that bill are opposed by an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers.”

“[Gov. Cuomo] let pro-women legislation die in order to appease radical members of the abortion lobby who contribute resources to his campaigns,” said Mr. Astorino, the current Westchester County Executive.

In his press release, Mr. Astorino also alluded to a recent scandal in which former Democratic Assemblyman Vito Lopez of Brooklyn, who owns a second home in Peconic, was fined for allegedly sexually harassing an intern on his staff as a knock against the governor’s record on women’s rights issues.

“[Assembly Speaker Sheldon] Silver covered up sexual abuse of young interns and staffers for years, using hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to pay off victims, and Andrew Cuomo protected him from criminal investigation after Silver got caught doing it,” Mr. Astorino said.

Ms. Hochul currently works in government relations for M&T Bank of Buffalo. She would replace Robert Duffy, Mr. Cuomo’s running mate in 2010, who announced in May that he would not seek re-election due to health reasons.

gparpan@timesreview.com

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated Ms. Hochul is the first woman nominated Lieutentant Governor. That distinction belongs to Mary Anne Krupsak, who was elected to the post in 1974. We regret the error.