AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
We're going to hear now from Cynthia Nixon. She hopes to add her name to the list of progressive upsets we've seen this primary season. As we said, she's been making an insurgent bid to unseat two-term incumbent Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.
That's an uphill battle, but the former "Sex And The City" actress believes people have repeatedly underestimated candidates like her. When we spoke earlier today, I asked her how.
CYNTHIA NIXON: I think that the media and the polls are not capturing this progressive moment that we're in and how hungry voters are for an alternative to the establishment, for people like me who, aren't accepting any corporate money, and for people like me, who are speaking about the issues that voters really care about, like single-payer health care, like Housing is a Human Right, like fully funding education, which is an issue that I've been fighting on for 17 years, and real criminal justice reform.
CORNISH: I want to ask you about some news in this race this week, which is that the New York State Democratic Committee reportedly sent voters a campaign mailer falsely accusing you of being silent on the rise of anti-Semitism.
NIXON: Well, it didn't reportedly send this flyer. It did send this flyer.
CORNISH: Have you reached out to them? Have you heard back? What's going on?
NIXON: I think it's a really despicable thing that they did. I'm raising two Jewish children. We belong to a synagogue. My kids were bar mitzvahed (ph). Their grandparents narrowly escaped the Holocaust, and we had a lot of family members who didn't.
And what I'm asking is to understand who is responsible for this. And I'm asking for Governor Cuomo to actually come out and say that this is completely false and that this was wrong and that he apologizes on behalf of his New York Democratic Party.
CORNISH: Right now, he says he doesn't know anything about it. Is this...
NIXON: Even The New York Times says that that is a ridiculous statement for him to be making.
CORNISH: I want to ask you about some agenda items. Three of your main agenda items are about increasing funding for public education, about money for infrastructure, single-payer health care for the state - all of them expensive. And you've been criticized for being vague about how you might fund them beyond increasing taxes on the wealthy.
NIXON: Right. I have not been vague at all, as opposed to Andrew Cuomo, who refuses to say how he might possibly pay for the very necessary rescue of our New York City subway.
I could not have been clearer about taxing the wealthy, taxing corporations, the need for comprehensive congestion pricing, the need for a polluters' tax in order to hold fossil fuel companies accountable when they poison our communities.
CORNISH: So what's your response to critics of progressive candidates like yourself, where that answer is almost always, it's going to be taxes?
NIXON: New York is a 2-1 Democratic state. And since Andrew Cuomo has taken office, he's eliminated the bank tax, he's slashed taxes on corporations, he's slashed taxes on everybody earning more than $300,000 a year, and he has decimated our infrastructure and he has cut our cities and our towns and our rural areas of the most basic services. We are a wealthy state, and we are operating now from a position of falsely imposed austerity.
CORNISH: But it's a question that goes beyond New York, right? It's a bigger question about, if you embrace certain progressive agenda items, do you also embrace the argument for, we need to just raise taxes to make these things happen?
NIXON: We are at a time of unprecedented corporate profits. And we are at a time when fewer and fewer Americans are able to feed their families, pay their rent. We need to completely upend the system. And we need to make sure that we are operating for the benefit of the great majority of the people, not just corporations and the wealthiest, who have access to elected leaders because of their very substantial campaign contributions.
CORNISH: You obviously have a background in activism, but people know you for HBO's "Sex And The City." Are we reaching a moment where a celebrity is really what is going to push people over the edge in terms of getting name recognition in office?
NIXON: No, absolutely not. I think what we're seeing is a moment when more and more people who have been activists for a long time are making the transition and saying, it's now time for us to run for office.
And what we are seeing, though, is that, when you're talking about taking on incumbents who are so well-funded from corporations, it's very hard for people who don't either have another kind of public platform, or don't have a lot of personal wealth to put into the campaign, which is - I am not investing in my own campaign.
CORNISH: You said you won't take a salary if you win.
NIXON: I have said that. But I certainly think that that is not a direction we should be moving in. We need more and more working-class people running for office and elected to office because so much now, it is white males who have access to great networks of wealth. And what we're seeing is more and more women and people of color who are saying, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. I'm going to speak to voters about issues that they care about.
CORNISH: Thank you so much for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
NIXON: Thanks so much.
CORNISH: That was Cynthia Nixon. She's running for the Democratic nomination for governor in the state of New York. In the meantime, we have reached out to her opponent, Governor Andrew Cuomo. We hope to hear from him in the next couple of days.
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