If you hang around long enough, everything seems to circle back.

Thirty years ago, I was a fresh-faced reporter for my college newspaper and covering a meeting of student protestors who were fighting Columbia University’s disciplinary system.

Nestled in the crowd of activists was a young Barnard senior who was already a successful actress, Cynthia Nixon. She had been in “Amadeus” and had starred in a play off-Broadway – but she also found time to attend this dreary logistical meeting. The protestors and this intrepid reporter all tried to pretend not to notice her.

It’s a very different story today for Nixon who is hoping be noticed as a candidate for governor rather than organize and cheer from the sidelines. While her activism never went away, Nixon is now engaging in a crash course of what it’s like to be the candidate rather than the candidate’s celebrity supporter.

If Nixon’s first campaign appearance is an accurate yardstick, she’s a quick study. Beyond reciting her biography, she all but took out a crowbar to swing away at Governor Cuomo’s record.

From ethics to mass-transit to the upstate economy, Nixon unleashed a withering attack against Cuomo. The response from the governor’s team was a stumble followed by an apology from former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on NY1 – who earlier in the day had said Nixon was “an unqualified lesbian.” Seemingly caught flat-footed by Nixon’s initial video announcement on Monday, Cuomo didn’t even have a campaign spokesman who could be quoted to respond.

Nixon has a long way to go before anyone can claim she’s making real headway in her fight against Cuomo. But as first days go – including a picture-perfect moment of Nixon’s train being delayed en route to her announcement – it was a hit. It’s a very long walk from the picket lines at Columbia to the governor’s mansion in Albany but it’s going to be very interesting to follow Nixon’s trail.


Bob Hardt