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Cynthia Nixon is already winning

Since the actress-turned-activist announced her campaign in March, she's forced Andrew Cuomo to reshape his world.

New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon speaks with reporters following a rally against financial institutions' support of private prisons and immigrant detention centers, May 1, 2018 in New York City. (CREDIT:  Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon speaks with reporters following a rally against financial institutions' support of private prisons and immigrant detention centers, May 1, 2018 in New York City. (CREDIT: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A year ago, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said he was opposed to recreational marijuana, calling it a “gateway drug.” Last month, he was singing a different tune.

“You have states that have legalized it now,” he said. “It is no longer a question of legal or illegal. It’s legal in Massachusetts. It may be legal in New Jersey. Which means for all intents and purposes it’s going to be here anyway.”

Cuomo’s stance on marijuana is hardly the only thing that’s changed about the governor in recent months. While, four years ago, as The New York Times recently noted, a spokesperson said Cuomo had managed the state “in a way that any Republican would be proud,” the governor’s communications team now consistently says that “the governor’s long record of progressive accomplishment is irrefutable.”

What happened?

One thing seems increasingly clear: Cynthia Nixon happened.

During his two terms in office, Andrew Cuomo has rarely visited New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) complexes. But then Nixon, the actress-turned-activist who’s challenging Cuomo in the Democratic primary this year, held a campaign event in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

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Suddenly, Cuomo was dedicated to “exposing” the problems NYCHA residents were facing. In April, he declared a state of emergency to expedite repairs.

When Nixon announced her campaign, she came out swinging at the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC), a group of Democrats in the State Senate who vote with Republicans. Though Democrats have a nominal majority in the Senate, the IDC ensures that Republicans run the chamber.

Last month, Cuomo announced he would be dissolving the IDC. (Days later, however, he attended a fundraiser for members of the group he was supposedly dissolving.)

Since Nixon announced her campaign in March, Cuomo has also announced that he plans to restore voting rights to felons on parole in New York State, and after killing a law last year that would have taxed plastic bags, he suddenly announced last month that he actually wants to ban all plastic bags in the state.

It’s become known as the “Cynthia Effect.”

The New York State Democratic convention starts Wednesday, where many fixtures of New York politics, as well as national establishment figures, including former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Joe Biden, will be rallying around Cuomo.

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When Nixon arrived at the convention, she told reporters that she didn’t expect to get the 25 percent of support needed from delegates to get on the ballot. (She can still get on the ballot by gathering signatures.)

But, she said, as she arrived at the train station, she was coming to the convention anyway to show she is a Democrat and that, she said, “it’s my party too.” Nixon also spoke to reporters Wednesday morning about Cuomo’s move to dissolve the IDC, calling it “too little too late.”

Since announcing her bid for the Democratic nomination, Nixon has had relative success in the polls, effectively cutting Cuomo’s lead in half — but that still means she’s down by more than 20 points. A poll from earlier this month had Cuomo leading with 50 percent to Nixon’s 28 percent.

“[Nixon] is not a present threat at this stage,” Peter A. Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll told The New York Times. “But she’s got four months.”

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Whether Nixon can win over delegates Wednesday or make up that ground over the next four months remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: She’s already winning.