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Saturday, February 6, 2016
Political arena

Klein running for Women's Equality Party as race gets nasty

By Shant Shahrigian

After years of criticism for the failure of the Women’s Equality Agenda, a legislative package including strengthened abortion rights, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Sen. Co-majority Leader Jeff Klein are running on a new party line devoted to just that cause.

Mr. Cuomo is launching the Women’s Equality Party this week, with Mr. Klein and a number of other Democrats gathering signatures to run on that line as well. While Mr. Klein is also fighting hard to remain the Democratic candidate for the 34th state senate district, New York law allows politicians to be on more than one party line.

While many commenters are puzzling over as drastic a move as forming a new party, it is evidently an effort to bolster Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Klein’s credentials on women’s issues.

Women’s groups have blamed the ruling coalition between Mr. Klein’s breakaway Democrats and Senate Republicans for the Women’s Equality Act’s failure to gain traction in the past two years. Mr. Klein and Republican state Sen. Co-majority Leader Dean Skelos have been viewed as deciding which legislation comes to the floor of the Senate for a vote or not.

Mr. Klein has maintained he is in favor of the agenda, which includes measures for equal pay between men and women, ending discrimination against working mothers and other issues.

Mr. Klein’s campaign declined to discuss details of the new party. But in an e-mail, a spokeswoman said his decision to run on the Women’s Equality Party line illustrates his commitment to the legislation.

The senator could also be taking a page from challenger Oliver Koppell’s playbook.

Earlier this year, Mr. Koppell sought to guarantee a spot on the November ballot by garnering the endorsement of the Working Families Party. That party later rescinded the endorsement when Mr. Klein promised to form a coalition between his Independent Democratic Conference and Senate Democrats after November.

While Mr. Klein is the favorite in his race against Mr. Koppell, the creation of the Women’s Equality Party appears to guarantee the senator will be on the ballot no matter who wins the Democratic primary.

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