Zephyr Teachout rouses Southern Tier voters

Monica Sandreczki
August 11, 2014

Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout brought her campaign to Otsego and Tompkins Counties over the weekend. Teachout is challenging Governor Cuomo in this year’s race for governor and spent the weekend rallying liberal voters against the governor. Morning Edition Host, Monica Sandreczki, caught up with Teachout at the rally in Cooperstown where she said, if elected, she’d ban hydrofracking her first day in office.

About 75 mostly retirees waited on wooden courtroom pews as Zephyr Teachout climbed the stairs into the Otsego County Courthouse Friday.

The green group Sustainable Otsgo organized the meeting. Sustainable Otsego moderator, Adrian Kuzminski introduced Teachout to a cheering crowd, listing her Ivy League education and experience fighting big money in politics.

Teachout thanked the crowd for their warm welcome.

"I told Adrian, 'I just drove through the most beautiful country in the world, we better ban fracking right away!'" said Teachout.

Clad in a beige skirt suit, Teachout tried to leave the microphones at the podium, but returned when audience members couldn’t hear her. At the bare bones meeting, there were no campaign posters. No streamers. No carefully edited speech. She arrived with just one assistant.

But, for 30 minutes, Teachout slammed Governor Cuomo for having abandoned the liberal agenda. And roused the crowd with her plan to rein in corporate monopolies, build up public transit and invest in clean energy.

“Solar farms are jobs. Off-shore wind is jobs, not just for the folks down there but for the manufacturing up here. Building in hydro is jobs and what’s best about it is it’s jobs and building a kind of power that we ourselves can take control of.”

The crowd got to their feet to give Teachout a standing ovation as she wrapped up her speech.

Andy Minnig is a member of the Otsego County Democratic Committee. Minnig says he was fired up by Teachout’s speech. He thinks her policies make her the true successor to Mario Cuomo, the current governor’s father.

“I have to go home now and convince the other members of my family to abandon the myth that Andrew has lived on," said Minnig. "That is the wonderful moral presence of his father. Andrew simply does not have that.”

But not all upstate residents are as taken with her stances.

Teachout has adopted a hard stance on hydrofracking and is trying to draw votes from a region that’s split on the issue.

According to a recent poll from Siena College, 60 percent of Southern Tier residents think fracking would be an economic boon to the area. Despite that, half of voters in the Southern Tier say, they’re still against fracking.

Either way, Teachout says she would offer all Southern Tier residents a change of style.

“Look, I think what people really want is a governor who’s honest, tell people where she stands, engage. And if you disagree, you disagree, but whatever your party affiliation, there’s been a failure of leadership.”

Many attendees stuck around after the meeting. Over a dozen queued up near the podium to talk with the gubernatorial hopeful, including Danielle Boudet.

“I, I love her. I’ve been following her for the past few weeks since she announced her run for governor. We are from a local organization – Oneonta Area for Public Education and we feel that Zephyr will be an ally to us where Governor Cuomo has not listened to any of our concerns.”

Teachout stayed to mingle with residents, answered questions and listened to concerns until event staff kicked everyone out of the courtroom. She answered each question thoughtfully, letting people know if she hadn’t fully considered a given issue.

Right now, Teachout is in a court battle with the Cuomo campaign over accusations she hasn’t lived in New York long enough to run for governor. The Cuomo campaign claims she listed a Vermont address in 2012. Teachout says she’s lived instate since 2009 when she accepted her position at Fordham University.

“I’ve rented a lot of places, but so have a lot of New Yorkers.”

The court is expected to make a final decision this afternoon. If Teachout is cleared to stay in the race, there’ll be four weeks of campaigning before the Democratic primary September 9.