Is it important for candidates to have previous political experience?
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Is it important for candidates to have previous political experience?

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Incumbent New York Governor Andrew Cuomo beat back a challenge from liberal activist and actor Cynthia Nixon, winning the Democratic primary by 30 percentage points. While Nixon excited the liberal wing of the party, many cited her lack of political or leadership experience as reason to vote for the incumbent. Progressives believe the party needs to elect more political novices to bring fresh ideas to leadership. Yet a lack of experience also means a lack of connections and knowledge of the nuances of governing. What do you think?

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The New York Times editorial board, which has never been a booster of Cuomo's, chose to endorse the incumbent over Nixon based on nothing but his experience. 

Yet the actor and activist Cynthia Nixon was the only Democrat with the guts to take on Mr. Cuomo, his $30 million campaign war chest and his reputation for vindictiveness. She has campaigned on sweeping promises to address New Yorkers’ hunger for health care, housing and a fair criminal justice system.
Ms. Nixon’s candidacy has demonstrated the impressive effect of reformist pressure on Mr. Cuomo. When she spoke forcefully about criminal justice reform, he restored voting rights to parolees. When she criticized him for blessing the Independent Democratic Conference — a group of rogue Democrats who empowered Republican control of the State Senate in exchange for perks and pork — he made sure the alliance was dismantled.
But Ms. Nixon’s lack of experience in government or management of any sort do not inspire confidence that she could overcome the old guard in Albany to fulfill her promises and run the state. Her campaign has, at times, boiled down to a largely negative message — that she is not Andrew Cuomo — and while that can indeed seem an appealing truth, it is not, in the end, enough.

Many Times readers were angered by the Cuomo endorsement, saying experience is not the only metric needed to determine who would be a good leader. 

You note that Cynthia Nixon, who is running for governor of New York, has “zero government or executive experience,” while obviously Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has tons. So how has nearly a decade of political prowess been working for us?
Reliable commuter service? Corruption cleanup? Universal statewide health care? State reproductive rights protections? Three bills that would update and fill gaps in New York law have been stalled in committee in the Legislature for years.
Meaningful bail or criminal justice reforms? Voting system improvements so New York State no longer has among the lowest voter rates nationwide?
Full funding for New York City schools as ordered by the state’s highest court? Reduced plastic bag waste since the governor stopped a city anti-bag law? Tenant protections to deter evictions and abuse? Passage of the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act?

Critics of insurgent candidates claim that their lack of experience is even a negative in how they run their campaigns, frequently focusing only on groups that already support their candidacy. 

As for Nixon, “It was crystal clear throughout this campaign that the Nixon team was caught in a feedback loop—since everyone they talked to thought that Andrew Cuomo was evil, they thought everyone thought he was evil,” said Stu Loeser, a former press secretary for Mike Bloomberg who now runs his own consulting shop in New York. “Had they spent any significant time in the suburbs, exurbs, upstate or even in the parts of New York City that aren’t the most liberal, they might have realized that most Democrats aren’t as liberal as they are.”
Nixon was hoping to ride the wave of progressive candidates currently sweeping into office.
Nixon and other Democratic candidates in the Trump era have helped start an important conversation among party leaders and voters about how much experience it takes to be a political leader. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who will almost certainly represent the Bronx and Queens in the House come January, ousted a 10-term congressman in her primary race. She has never held elected office but, like Nixon, has a history of political activism. Ocasio-Cortez won on the strength of her ideas, her excellent grassroots organizing, and a background that closely aligns with those of her future constituents. Ayanna Pressley performed a similar feat in Massachusetts earlier this month. She has several years of experience on the Boston City Council, but her primary win over a progressive 10-term congressman was largely based on personality and lived experience, not political positions. In both Pressley’s and Ocasio-Cortez’s races, a white man’s two decades of experience in office was a shortcoming, not a selling point. Those who consider Cuomo a corrupt, unprincipled machine politician might have made a similar case for Nixon.

Voters are frustrated with status quo political leaders, many choosing to vote for people with big ideas over extensive experience.

Even celebrities who typically stay out of politics were concerned about Nixon's lack of experience. Amy Schumer took to Instagram days before the election to weigh in in favor of Cuomo.

Reason: Andrew isn’t my fav dude But he’s good gov. I wanted to vote
Nixon, but sadly, i don’t believe she would know what the heck to do. She needs to be able to pressure the state legislature in stuff but I don’t believe she has enough connections upstate. But I love her and think if anyone is inclined voting Nixon is cool

Schumer eventually decided to vote for Nixon.

Yet many progressive candidates enter races in an attempt to force incumbent politicians to discuss topics they typically avoid—civil rights issues, drug policies and criminal justice issues. Senior culture editor for Esquire, Tyler Coates, shared this opinion on Twitter.

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