NEW YORK -- Several dozen New Yorkers gathered in Manhattan's Union Square Monday night to rally behind Zephyr Teachout, the Democratic primary candidate for governor who over the past few months has mounted a Herculean campaign against incumbent Andrew Cuomo.
"I love New York and I'm not going to stop fighting for it," Teachout told a diverse group that included students, state employees and artists. "I believe in the equal dignity of every New Yorker."
Teachout has enjoyed increasing visibility on the campaign trail in recent weeks, which Cuomo has tried to squelch by refusing to acknowledge his opponent by name or to participate in debates against her. At a Labor Day parade over the weekend, a Cuomo aide went so far as to physically block the Fordham University law professor from approaching the governor. And last month, his team unsuccessfully filed a lawsuit against her, claiming she hadn't lived in New York for enough consecutive years to be eligible for candidacy.
Although a Teachout victory in Tuesday's primary remains a long shot (in an August Quinnipiac survey, 85 percent of New York Democrats said they didn't know enough about her to form an opinion), her supporters vowed to fight until the last ballot is counted.
Cuomo "represents the very antithesis of the democracy he's sworn to protect," engineering student Javier Anderson said to HuffPost. "If you believe democracy can be bought and sold, go for Cuomo. With Teachout, it's an investment in the issues. She's honest, outspoken, and she's not being bankrolled."
It's a familiar refrain for Teachout and her backers, who have been working to paint Cuomo as a corrupt product of the political machine. Their efforts were bolstered by a New York Times investigation in July alleging the governor interfered with an independent ethics panel he commissioned once the panel began looking into his own questionable activities.
"We're so much better than the corrupt old boy politicians," Teachout told HuffPost on Monday. "New York is an open, connected place with third-rate politics."
While Cuomo spent the summer dodging questions about his ethical conduct, Teachout gained support among progressives, who hailed her liberal stances on issues such as natural gas fracking, drug policy and campaign finance reform. The governor, however, continued to rake in endorsements from key labor unions and Democratic heavy hitters, such Hillary Clinton. And while The New York Times editorial board notably refused to endorse Cuomo, it wouldn't back Teachout, citing her lack of experience in politics.
Lack of experience hardly fazed Teachout's advocates Monday night. "We need a change," Eve Silber, a musician who lives in the West Village, told HuffPost. "Albany doesn't work for us right now. Our governor says one thing and does the other. I want campaign finance reform and so does Zephyr Teachout. I want government transparency and so does Zephyr Teachout."
Teachout's overall obscurity among voters was more apparent at a pro-Cuomo rally in Times Square a few hours earlier, where many attendees didn't even recognize her name. "I don't have time to know about another person," Rose Castillo, a member of New York City's hospitality union, said to HuffPost.
Still, Monday marked one of the few times Cuomo acknowledged his primary opponent's existence. “You can be a great college professor,” he told reporters during his Times Square appearance. “You can be very good at what you do. You need experience in government if you want to run the state of New York.”
If Cuomo takes Tuesday's primary as predicted, he'll face Republican candidate Rob Astorino, a Westchester County executive, in November's general election. But New Yorkers can be sure this isn't the last they'll see of Teachout.
"I love politics; it gets a bad rap but it's one of the most exhilarating things you can do," Teachout said to HuffPost. "I'm not going anywhere."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article mistakenly identified Eve Silber as Eve Silbek. We regret the error.