Deciding to go to the launch party for Cynthia Nixon’s campaign to become the Governor of New York, I knew it would be far, far removed from the sunny, political sausage sizzles of back home in Australia.
But I never anticipated the chaos or the bruises. I also didn’t expect to end my night taking a semi-drunken selfie with the former Sex and the City star, the governor-hopeful herself.
But first, let’s set the scene. The launch took place in a dark, dank wooden bar called Stonewall Inn in New York’s West Village. The location is important: It’s where the LGBTIQ community first fought back against routine police raids in 1969, triggering violent riots and serving as a launch pad for the swelling gay rights movement.
All of us are wet. Thirty centimeters of snow has fallen during the day and there is a proud sentiment among patrons there to see Nixon: “We’re braving the storm to rally for her; she’s braving the political gauntlet to fight for us,” the temperature reads.
The appointment to state governor would see Nixon, 51, best known for her role as Miranda in Sex and the City, in charge of legislature for the state of New York. She’d be the commander-in-chief of the state’s military and naval forces. Her title would read, ‘Her excellency’.
The people around me are a solid mix of men and women – though there are more women. “Are you British?” the arm-band-manager asked me when I arrived and paid my donation. There are people old and young. Black, White, Asian, South American, European, British, Australian.
It’s an hour-and-a-half into the event and Nixon is nowhere to be seen. But no one in the crowd – friendlier than New York in general – expects that she should be. The woman next to me is talking about menstruation. People behind me are handing out peanut butter cookies.
The conversations about Nixon are equal parts earnest and hopeful. The level of awe around her celebrity and candidacy – because the two are entirely intertwined – is not like anything seen in Australian politics.
Her public persona as a feminist lesbian – a mother-of-three, too – gives people confidence she will make huge, positive changes as New York’s Governor.
“I just love her,” one woman says next to me, reaching for her drink.
Calling all qualified and unqualified lesbians and everyone who wants funded schools, affordable housing & working subways: Join our Campaign Launch Party 3/21 at the Stonewall Inn, 6-9PM. Skip the line, buy your ticket now! https://t.co/orfEB0Qj47
— Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) March 21, 2018
The call was for all “qualified and unqualified lesbians” to turn up and celebrate the launch of Nixon’s campaign.
This comes after former city councillor, Christine Quinn – who supports Nixon’s opposition, the current Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo – called Nixon an “unqualified lesbian” after she first announced her intention to run.
The quote is taken out of context – Quinn herself is a lesbian, also – but it’s being repeated like a war cry throughout the crowd.
And Nixon positively owns it.
Stepping onto the stage as she finally arrives, the 200+ crowd pressing in and onto her as she entered through the back door. Nixon calls to us:
“Good evening sisters, brothers and all those who reject the gender binary… Good evening to unqualified lesbians.”
People. Go. Wild.
“I admit, I don’t have verification from the department of lesbian affairs,” she roars.
Nixon was introduced by her wife, Christine Marinoni, who spoke about the former actress’ proven commitment to improving education and the rights of the LGBTIQ community.
With a background in advocacy, Marinoni offered the reasons Nixon deserves the vote. Now, Nixon’s job is to rally the crowd:
“We must ask this question: does ‘we the people’ include all of us,” she wonders.
“Shadows fall more deeply upon those who are ‘other’. LGBTIQ. African American. Working class. Trans, specifically. We need to take our state, our country, our party back.”
The crowd is listening. Answers are thrown out to her questions. “Yes” is yelled frequently in support.
“This is a time to fight. The cavalry is not coming… You know why? We are the cavalry,” she tells us.
“Cin-the-ya,” the crowd chants. “Cin-the-ya.”
LISTEN: The Out Loud crew discuss Cynthia Nixon running for Governor. Post continues below.
Nixon has a history campaigning for improved education in public schools and smaller classroom sizes in the City of New York. She lobbied for gay marriage and has helped raise awareness around breast cancer after she herself was diagnosed in 2006.
She is a fierce advocate for abortion rights. She protested Trump’s presidency, and his immigration ban. She’s led rallies and been arrested at protests.
A man in his 30s is hopeful Nixon will eventually run for president. Standing next to me, he compares her to Oprah Winfrey: “Cynthia is a working actress, she’s had success but she’s still a blank canvas. Oprah’s been too political for too long,” he says.
“Cynthia has the gay vote,” another person tells me before a drunk woman in her 60s leans over us yelling to the bartender for another lager.
Retrieving her beer and handing over the tip, the woman begins singing… “That’s what it’s all about”.
After her speech, Nixon can’t move. Everyone wants a piece of her.
This isn’t like the photo opportunities seen at political rallies at home, this is people grabbing her arms and pleading with her:
"Do something to reduce prison bail for those who can't afford it"; "Thank you for fighting for us"; "You have to protect the black community, too. Don't forget."
Before, the crowd was friendly and light-hearted. Now, people are serious, desperate to get to her. One man pushes me out of the way, his arm shoving me hard in the chest.
Selfie room is prime real estate and I don't know how she does it.
Suddenly she's in front of me and the only thing I'm thinking is: "Don't bring up Sex and the City. Don't bring up Sex and the City".
We take a photo and she laughs at the cracks on my phone screen. Then, she is gone. The sea of hands engulf her and I push, shove, fight my way to the exit.
The election date is set for November 6, 2018 and, before then, Nixon needs to beat Cuomo in the primary. She's got a tough road ahead - he's been Governor of New York and leading the state's Democratic party since 2011.
But for now, "Cin-the-ya" is surrounded by those who believe in her. Her "cavalry", as she calls it.
And... from the bruises slowly forming on my arms and ribs from other, shoving elbows, I am starting to think she's onto something.