The Activist Who Ran for Governor

Randy Credico. NYCity Lens/Cherno B. Jallow

Randy Credico. NYCity Lens/Cherno B. Jallow

Having just come out of a primary campaign as candidate for governor of New York, you would think Randy Credico, 60, would take a break from public engagements and accord himself some leisure time. But no; he was still out there, on the campaign trail, sort of. Just recently, for example, he said he had to go to a rally in Albany for Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for New York governor. So Credico wasn’t going to be available for an interview.

“Call me tomorrow morning and then I will tell you where you can meet me,” he said, in his rather raspy voice, on the phone. When I called the next day as suggested, Credico began as if he was going to be unavailable again. But then: “Meet me at five in the Village near where you met me,” he said. “But at seven I have to attend a panel on police brutality.”

He sounded like a man in a hurry. But when we met at the Waverly Wine and Liquor store, on 6th Avenue, Credico looked relaxed. He was in a pair of jeans and an un-tucked shirt. He rolled his shirtsleeves up and hung his blazer on the chair behind him. He didn’t order any drinks, but sat by the counter, occasionally exchanging pleasantries with the bartenders and generally looking rather subdued. He was unlike his effusive self on primary day, when he had stood on the corner of West 11th Street in the West Village vigorously canvassing for votes.

Credico received a dismal 3.6% —or 19,045 —of the total vote counted so far. “Well, I was shut out,” he said. But “I was expecting 1%; I did better than I had expected. My votes came from people; those are hard-earned votes.” To him, the issue wasn’t just about winning but about spreading the message. “I did what I said I was going to do. I spent eight months weakening Andrew Cuomo,” he said. Credico thinks the governor has gone back on matters that he says had once united them, like criminal justice reform, changing the war on drugs. “His policies were not for the people. They were pro business, pro police. We were able to unmask him,” he said.

Credico, who lives on 75th and Amsterdam, ran on causes like legalized marijuana and a 1% sales tax on Wall Street. So I asked: Legalized marijuana? Could it be that most voters found that unacceptable, and hence, partly the reason for his poor showing? He disagreed. He said in New York pot decriminalization is gaining support. “It is something that grows,” he said, referring to marijuana. “Long before we were here, marijuana was here. It is like making it illegal to eat bananas.”

In 2012, Credico openly smoked a joint inside the New York State Capitol building in an act of civil disobedience. He was showing his disagreement with the State Senate Republicans’ decision to defeat a proposal to “expand the state’s current marijuana decriminalization law.” He remembers the episode with a wry smile. “They didn’t arrest me because I am white,” he said. “If I were black, they would have arrested me.”

He says he does smoke a joint once in a while, but that doesn’t mean he is telling people to smoke marijuana. “I don’t encourage people to smoke. I am not saying, give it to the kids,” he said as he vaped an e-cigarette.

Credico is single and has no kids. He has an eight-year-old dog Bianca, a Coton de Tulean breed from Madagascar, which he brought along with him. As he sat in the bar, he kept an admiring eye over the little dog. “She is a pretty dog,” he told the bartenders. “I remember when you were just a baby,” he said, talking to the little puppy.

“I am like those guys who are too busy to bring a child into this world,” Credico said, explaining why he is still unmarried and doesn’t have kids. “Society is so f****d up, I decided to put my time into changing it,” he said.

Born in Pomona, California, Credico moved to New York in 1980. At 27, he made an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. His biography says he is the main character of the movie 60 Spins Around the Sun, a 2003 documentary on Credico, chronicling his life from comedian to activist, taking on stands against racial profiling and the New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws, and in support of the Sandinistas. He still does voice-overs and stand-up comedy, although he doesn’t like to be called a comedian. “I prefer to be called a political satirist,” he said. “Everyone, including a clown, can be a comedian.” Credico once stood outside the state capitol costumed as the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes, the one who went round searching for an honest man. He has appeared on Comedy Central and performs in private parties in the city. He says he will be doing stand-ups at various fundraisers for Hawkins, the Green Party candidate, who he has already endorsed.

Now that the primaries are over, Credico, the former director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice in New York, says he will focus on an autobiographical book he is writing and do more stand-ups. “That’s my last for now,” he said, referring to his run for public office. “I am not going to be governor, so I better stay working.”