Cynthia Nixon

First lady rumble: Sandra Lee vs. Christine Marinoni

Cynthia Nixon's candidacy for governor puts her wife, Christine Marinoni, in the spotlight. Here's how Marinoni compares to Sandra Lee, the closest thing New York currently has to a first lady.

It may seem as if Sandra Lee, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s girlfriend and the de facto first lady of New York, and Christine Marinoni, Cynthia Nixon’s wife, have little in common other than politically ambitious partners: One is a TV personality known for her creative recipes, the other is a longtime activist with ties to the Brooklyn LGBT community.

But they do also share an activist bent. Here is a guide to what you want to know about Lee and Marinoni, the once and perhaps future first ladies of New York:

Sandra Lee

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Anniversary: Cuomo and Lee have been together since 2005. They are not married.

Children: Lee and Cuomo do not have children together, but Cuomo has three daughters from his previous marriage to Kerry Kennedy.

Cultural impact: Lee is a television chef and author of several cookbooks, as well as an occasional contributor on “Good Morning America.” She hosted the show “Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee” on the Food Network, and introduced a cooking method which combined pre-packaged food with fresh ingredients. Her concoctions sometimes backfired – as with a critically maligned Kwanzaa cake in 2003 – but she has won awards for her programming and remains well-liked. According to her website, which of course contains data on her own popularity, she is a “demography breaker” – she has a favorability rating north of 80 percent among all demographics.

Activism: Lee, who is now cancer-free, chronicled her battle with breast cancer in the documentary “RX Early Detection: A Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016. Lee’s illness inspired Cuomo to advocate for more breast cancer screenings in his State of the State address in 2016, and he later signed legislation expanding access to mammograms.


Social media presence: Lee is on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Cuomo on Lee: The governor doesn’t often talk publicly about his girlfriend, although he occasionally appears in her Instagram posts. In 2015, after she had been hospitalized due to the cancer, Cuomo said on NY1 that she is “optimistic, she’s tough and she’s a fighter.”

Christine Marinoni

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Anniversary: Nixon and Marinoni have been together since 2004. They married in 2012.

Children: Nixon and Marinoni have a son together who was born in 2011 and features prominently in Nixon's first campaign ad. Nixon also has two children from a previous marriage to Danny Mozes.

Cultural impact: Marinoni opened a lesbian-oriented coffee shop and bar in Park Slope in 1995, which became a site for LGBT activism in the area, as she and others in the community organized marches after the hate crime which killed Matthew Shepard.

Activism: Marinoni has a history of advocating on LGBT issues, and went to Albany with Nixon to lobby for same-sex marriage to be legalized in the state. She became friendly with then-New York City Council candidate Bill de Blasio in 2001 while she served as the director of the Alliance for Quality Education. She was supportive of de Blasio’s 2013 bid to become New York City mayor, and she and Nixon campaigned strongly on his behalf. Marinoni said in an interview with City & State in July that she “basically worked around the clock as a volunteer” for that campaign. She later joined the de Blasio administration as special adviser for community partnerships at the Department of Education, although she resigned from her post early in March as Nixon geared up to challenge Cuomo.

Social media presence: Marinoni is nominally on Twitter, although she has only tweeted three times in five years.

Nixon on Marinoni: Nixon said in an interview in 2010 that she had never dated women before she became involved with Marinoni, but she realized early on that they had a powerful connection. “It wasn't something in me that was waiting to come out,” she said. “It was like, this person is undeniable. How can I let this person walk by?”