Impressive primary turnout
Voter turnout for the New York State primary was impressive by recent historical standards. Some 1.5 million New Yorkers went to the polls, more than twice as many as voted in the midterm primary in 2014, suggesting an electorate that is more engaged than in the past, and more likely to participate in the election in November.
The mood of the voters seemed to be mixed. In some cases more progressive candidates took away the chance to run for office from more established incumbents; but in others, Democrats chose the more mainstream candidate.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo swamped his competitor, actress and activist Cynthia Nixon, with Cuomo garnering some 65% of the vote as opposed to Nixon’s 34%. He did it by pretty much ignoring Nixon and instead, running against President Donald Trump. He also outspent his opponent by pouring more than $21 million into his campaign in 2018, whereas Nixon spent about $2 million during the same time period.
His campaign was criticized as “old school” by some analysts, but it worked well enough to put him in a good position to win a third term as governor in November, and possibly a run for president after that.
While Cuomo was not the more progressive candidate in the race, progressive voters made their presence felt, particularly against members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), that group of eight Democratic Senators who lined up and voted with Republicans for the last seven years, effectively giving Republicans control of the Senate despite the fact that Democrats nominally had the majority. The IDC was dissolved in April, but voters were not in a forgiving mood. Six members of the IDC were voted out of office in favor of more progressive candidates.
Most visibly, the IDC leader, Jeff Klein, was defeated by Alessandra Biaggi, a 32-year-old lawyer who has worked for Hillary Clinton and Cuomo. Again, the incumbent spent much more than his opponent, at $2 million, about 10 times as much as Biaggi. But in this case, the money didn’t matter. In her victory remarks, Biaggi said she won because of voters “who knew that we could not tolerate Democrats who would be empowering Republicans, that that was intolerable.” That district includes part of the Bronx and a small piece of Westchester County.
Closer to home, in the state Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. John Bonacic, voters chose Rosendale town council member Jen Metzger over alternative energy activist Pramilla Malick. Malick has gained a reputation as a tireless fighter against the Minisink Compressor Station and the Competitive Power Ventures power plant in Orange County, but some people labeled her a one-issue candidate, and that didn’t help her at the polls.
Across the district, Metzger garnered 9,883 votes as opposed to 6,336 for Malick. In Sullivan County Metzger received 2,270 against Malick’s 1,286.
The four-way race to become the next attorney general gained national attention because of the ability of that office to investigate the business activities of President Donald Trump. The winner was the candidate Cuomo had endorsed, Letitia James, a New York City Public Advocate. James received about 38% of the vote statewide, while law professor Zephyr Teachout received 29%, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney received about 23% and attorney Leecia Eve received about 3%. (In Sullivan County, where Teachout ran for a congressional seat, and in a primary against Cuomo, Teachout out-polled James by a two-to-one margin.)
With her victory, James becomes the first black woman to win a major party nomination for statewide office, but as with Cuomo, she didn’t run against her opponents as much as she ran against the president. After winning she said, “This campaign was never really about me or any of the candidates who ran. It was about the people, but mostly it was about that man in the White House who can’t go a day without threatening our fundamental rights.”
That’s the one thing that just about all of the winning Democrats had in common: they ran to some degree against the president. In her campaign to take Bonacic’s seat, Metzger has a video that says, “We are at a critical juncture in this country, and now more than ever before it falls to state government to step up and protect the public welfare and defend the democratic values we share.”
Metzer will now face off against Orange County Clerk and former Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt. On her website, Rabbitt features endorsements from Republican Sullivan County officials such as county clerk Dan Briggs and chairman of the county legislature, Luis Alvarez. There is no mention of the president to be found.