It's the summer of democratic socialism. It's a political label that's gained prominence following the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders in 2016 and the successful primary bid of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It's also one embraced by gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon and her running mate, Jumaane Williams.
“I've always considered myself a democratic socialist. I think most Americans are democratic socialists. But we've allowed people to be afraid of certain words,” said Williams.
But Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins says the Democrats who identify as socialists now miss the broader point: public ownership.
“They're missing a central tenant of the socialist tradition, which is social ownership of the means of production as a basis for the means of economic production,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins has long identified with the socialist movement, saying it's one that can take place within a major political party.
“We can only liberate ourselves, and so we need an independent political party outside of the two-party system,” said Hawkins.
Libertarian candidate for governor Larry Sharpe understands why voters are increasingly seeking out ideologies outside of what has been considered the political mainstream.
“A lot of people are identifying as socialist because it's not the establishment. They don't actually know what it means. What they know is the establishment is not working for me,” said Sharpe.
As for Democrats in the Legislature like Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, they point to support for reducing college tuition costs and single-payer health care -- economic programs that can have a broad appeal.
“We don't feel you have to support those things to be identified as a socialists,” said Heastie.