Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon in uphill New York election fight

Cynthia Nixon faces off against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in the state's Democratic primary on Sept 13, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Cynthia Nixon, the telegenic, left-leaning Sex and the City actress turned activist, faces the electoral battle of her life on Thursday (Sept 13) in her long-shot bid to unseat New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The 52-year-old mother of three wants to become the first woman and first openly gay governor of America's fourth most populous state, which leans Democrat but has upstate areas that voted for Donald Trump.

But first she faces off against Cuomo, 60, in the state's Democratic primary on Thursday. Turnout is usually notoriously low but polling stations open at 6am (6pm Singapore time) and close at 9pm.

Nixon has campaigned hard to the left, hoping to ride the crest of other upset victories by political first-timers in Democratic Party primaries in congressional seats in places like New York and Boston.

"This is not a moment to sit on the sidelines. This is a moment to stand up and fight back," she told an election eve rally.

"It is hard to go up against the Cuomo machine and it takes an enormous amount of bravery, but we are tired of the status Cuomo," she added. "We know we can do better."

Yet she heads into Thursday's vote trailing Cuomo in every single demographic group, the governor leading 63-22 per cent, up from 60-29 per cent in late July, according to the latest poll from Siena College.

Cuomo, the son of a governor who married a daughter of Robert F Kennedy and had three children before they divorced, has traded hard on his own progressive record and outspent his competitor.

He also won a last-minute endorsement from rap star Nicki Minaj, who told her 20 million Twitter followers that New Yorkers should vote for the governor. "Spread the word. See you at the polls," she wrote.


Nixon has hit Cuomo hard on the crumbling subway, going after his more centrist credentials and for taking donations from Trump in the past, as well as his bevvy of corporate donors.

She champions economic equality, slams systemic racism, and backs single-payer healthcare, legalised marijuana and public education.

Likely to work in Cuomo's favour is that New York allows only registered Democrats to vote in the primary.

Nixon dived into the race last March, but in the final home-stretch, the fight has been dirty. A Democratic Party mailer implied she was anti-Semitic, sparking a furious backlash but Cuomo pleaded innocent.

Nixon leapt on what she denounced as a smear campaign, pointing out that she was bringing up two of her children Jewish and attended synagogue.

Then she sailed into controversy and free column inches of her own - for a bagel order that incensed almost everyone - the incongruous lox, cream cheese, tomatoes and capers on a cinnamon and raisin bun.

Should she pull off the impossible, it will be a humiliating blow to a governor said to harbour presidential ambitions, and who served as a Cabinet secretary under Bill Clinton at the tender age of 39.

But winning state-wide is tough, especially for a first-timer up against the well-oiled and seriously well-funded machinery of a two-time governor running for his third term.

"Whether people love him or not, they know who he is," said Michael Miller, professor of political science at Barnard College.

"To break through, that requires a lot of money and organisation," he told AFP. "A lot of people would be surprised if she did pull it off."

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