Protesters who have been hounding longshot New York gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout at her events have been working with the campaign of her rival in the Democratic primary, incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
In a conversation with Business Insider Friday evening, a spokesperson for Cuomo’s campaign confirmed the mysterious protesters were “affiliated” with the governor’s political operation.
“Some of the folks there were volunteers on the campaign,” the spokesperson said. “They’re affiliated with the campaign, volunteers.”
The protesters have appeared at multiple events held by Teachout wearing business casual clothing and obscuring their faces with signs. They refused to answer questions from multiple reporters who attempted to ask who they represented.
Business Insider attended one of Teachout’s press conferences Thursday where she highlighted a New York Times report on allegations the governor interfered with an anti-corruption commission. Afterwards, we followed the protesters to determine their origins.
Our attempt ended with one of the protesters, a young man who carried an identification badge from a real estate firm that has donated to the governor and owns the building where the Cuomo campaign is headquartered, screaming, cursing and threatening us. The young man declined to discuss his reasons for protesting Teachout.
The Cuomo campaign’s admission of involvement in the protests came shortly after Business Insider informed operatives working on the campaign we had identified several of the protesters and uncovered evidence on social media linking them to the governor’s political operation. The Cuomo campaign spokesperson said the volunteers protested at a press conference Teachout held Tuesday in Manhattan with Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino where they criticised Cuomo’s ethics as well as at the event on Thursday.
“We don’t have people at all the events,” the spokesperson explained. “A few people went to the Astorino thing at City Hall there was a handful of folks there and I guess some people went to this Teachout thing.”
Teachout’s campaign manager Mike Boland said it wasn’t “surprising” to discover the protesters were affiliated with Team Cuomo.
“I’ve never been protested by a group of protesters adhering to a strict dress code, so that seems about right,” Boland said.
Boland also pointed to the Cuomo campaign’s legal challenge to Teachout’s residency, which was filed in court by two young men affiliated with the campaign, Austin Sternlicht and Harris Weiss. The lawsuit is attempting to get Teachout thrown off the ballot for residency issues because, among other things, she made a campaign contribution listing a Vermont address as her own in 2012. Many of the protesters at Teachout’s event Thursday carried signs referencing the legal challenge.
“It’s not surprising, he’s basically put two interns, I think they’re like 18 or 19-year-old interns to sue us in court,” said Boland of Cuomo. “I couldn’t imagine the idea I would go to my interns and be like, ‘You should be a plaintiff in my lawsuit.’ It’s totally weak, it’s totally pathetic. I hope Cuomo asked their parents, because they probably still live at home.”
Boland argued the Cuomo campaign’s use of volunteers to protest Teachout shows the governor doesn’t have an “excited base.”
“There’s not too many people out there who really love this guy. I know he polls well, but there’s not a lot of people who are crazy about the guy,” Boland said. “When he needs to turn people out to actually do something he goes to his interns. He doesn’t really have an excited base, which is part of the reason we could win the race. People who support Zephyr love her.”
The Cuomo campaign statement declined to comment on Boland’s claims about the governor’s base. Polls conducted earlier this month show 80% of New York Democrats are set to vote for Cuomo in the general election in November.
Additional reporting by Colin Campbell.
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