"She knows her way around New York State politics, is a very thoughtful and intelligent leader and brings a pizzazz that would really excite voters," the executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education tells PEOPLE
Cynthia Nixon confirmed she’s throwing her hat in the ring for governor of New York on Monday — but, to some, the Sex and the City alum’s rumored political aspirations come as no surprise.
“I think there are a lot of people who would like me to run for a variety of reasons,” the 51-year-old said in August 2017, when discussing her potential bid with Today‘s Take co-hosts Al Roker, Dylan Dreyer and guest host John Cena. “And I think the No. 1 is education.”
Nixon will face off against current New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary. The star blamed Cuomo, a two-term Democrat, for much of the divide between the state’s “richest” and “poorest schools” while on the show — and has sharply criticized the governor for his education policy in the past as well.
During an appearance on The View last year, Nixon slammed Cuomo, saying, “Basically, Gov. Cuomo is shortchanging the children of New York State.”
Motivated in part by having her own three children – Samantha, 20, Charles Ezekiel, 14, and Max Ellington, 6 – currently or previously attending public schools, Nixon has dedicated much of her time to fighting on behalf of other parents with children in the system as a spokesperson for New York’s Alliance for Quality Education.
The AQE is a public school advocacy organization representing parents and communities.
“As a public school Mom and a member of the Alliance for Quality Education, Cynthia has consistently been on the front line in the fight for our public schools,” Billy Easton, executive director of AQE, told PEOPLE in a statement last year. “Cynthia has led rallies, spoke at press conferences, lobbied elected officials and written opinion pieces for newspapers calling for educational opportunity for every student and has been gutsy in calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to stop opposing educational equity.”
Adds Easton, “She knows her way around New York State politics, is a very thoughtful and intelligent leader and brings a pizzazz that would really excite voters.”
RELATED VIDEO: Tim Matheson Reveals What Cynthia Nixon Said to Him About a Possible Sex and the City 3
Nixon’s education advocacy began when her daughter was first entering the public school system – just as a recession caused New York City budget cuts. On The View, Nixon said, “I’ve been involved in fighting for more equitable school funding across New York state and in New York City as well for 15 years.”
According to a 2013 New York Times profile, she began attending rallies – even once getting arrested during a City Hall protest. She met wife Christine Marinoni, an education organizer who has served as AQE director, in 2001 when Nixon was campaigning to reduce N.Y.C. public-school class sizes, per The Advocate.
Years later – around the time of the Times sit-down – Nixon became a crucial advocate for Bill de Blasio in his successful campaign for N.Y.C. mayor. According to the outlet, Nixon helped de Blasio secure an array of celebrity endorsements, including from actress Susan Sarandon and Sex and the City costar Sarah Jessica Parker. After de Blasio’s election, Nixon was named to the advisory board for the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.
“She’s incredibly bright, and she understands that there is an opportunity for her to be a voice when others might not have that opportunity,” Parker told the Times in the 2013 profile. “Cynthia can stand in the front at a rally and speak because she will bring attention; she will have a presence that creates curiosity.”
Nixon also campaigned on behalf of President Obama‘s re-election campaign in multiple states. She even helped crusade for Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken, who told the Times of Nixon, “She’s not dabbling at all. We had given her material on what I had done, but she really internalized it and put it together in her own way. She knows what she is talking about.”
Democratic strategist and former DNC chief Donna Brazile echoes that sentiment, telling PEOPLE last year of Nixon’s rumored run, “Cynthia will make a phenomenal candidate. She’s wicked smart, knows the issues and has campaigned for everyone from city council to the Presidency.”