NEW YORK, USA – Actress Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City fame kickstarted her campaign for New York governor on Tuesday, March 20 – and sparked a media frenzy – by taking the subway to meet minority voters in the poorest neighborhood of Brooklyn.
The 51-year-old celebrity turned novice politician, running to become the first woman and first openly gay governor of New York, donned an aquamarine blue sheath dress and chose a multicultural church to outline her left-leaning brand of Democratic politics.
"We need to show the entire country and the world that in the era of Donald Trump's divide and conquer agenda, New Yorkers will come together and we will lead our nation forward," she told a sizeable press contingent and clutch of supporters.
"We will fight for you, girlfriend!" nursing assistant Winsome Pendergrass, 59, told Nixon, hugging her.
The event in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn came one day after the actress declared she was taking on two-time Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo, the scion of a political dynasty in the Empire State.
Pledging to do things differently from "big corporate Democrats," she delivered a short stump speech, promising to fix New York's "broken" subway, shore up the $15 an hour minimum wage, foster renewable energy, and end racial and economic inequality.
She then stepped off the stage to greet a handful of voters, mastering a camera-ready smile for the bevy of television cameras, before being whisked down the corridor for a closed-door meeting.
"I think it's wonderful. It's a breath of fresh air," Pendergrass told Agence France-Presse. "She will listen to us more than the men do and I think she's approachable."
Retired porter Norman Frazier, 66, also said he would vote for Nixon in the September primary over Cuomo. "If it was today, I'd do it right now," he told AFP.
"This is what we need here," he added, identifying with Nixon's portrayal of herself as having grown up with little money and working as an actress from the age of 12.
Cuomo "does nothing for Brownsville," Frazier countered.
The majority black neighborhood is one of the toughest parts of America's most populous city, where average life expectancy in 2015 was 74.1 – 11 years below the city's highest of 85.4 in Manhattan's financial district.
'Pour yourself a cosmo'
The Trump presidency has mobilized Democrats and led to an unprecedented surge in women running for office at state and federal elections this November – polls widely considered as a referendum on the Trump White House.
With wife Christine Marinoni in the audience at the Bethesda Healing Center, Nixon said she was "honored" to join their ranks.
"Thousands of women all over America are running for office for the first time and we're realizing that if we want things to change, we have to do it for ourselves," she said.
But Nixon took aim less at Trump – whose celebrity path into politics she is mimicking, albeit on a radically different ticket – and laid much of the blame for New York's "crushing inequality" at Cuomo's 8 years in office.
She accused the Democrat – whose father Mario was a 3-term New York governor – of giving tax breaks to corporations and the super-rich, and presiding over "inhumane budgets" that have deprived children, the elderly, working class and minorities.
"We hear all the time about how the big money interests control DC. But if Washington is a swamp, Albany is a cesspool," she said, making a reference to the governor's "right-hand man," who was convicted of corruption last week.
"There is a reason that people close to Andrew Cuomo keep winding up under indictment for corruption," she said to applause and laughter.
Yet Cuomo is a hard man to beat. He has amassed a $30 million war chest, commands a 66 to 19% lead over Nixon in one recent poll of Democrats and is also touted as a potential presidential contender in 2020.
Still there is speculation he's unnerved by a celebrity run from the left.
"Is Governor Cuomo really that worried by Cynthia Nixon – or has he just lost it?" sniped one New York Post op-ed. 'The right approach to Nixon, sir, is to relax — heck, pour yourself a cosmo." –Rappler.com