Cuomo Clinches Primary as NY Democrats Topple Switch-Hitter Senators

MANHATTAN (CN) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo comfortably defeated a primary challenge from actress and activist Cynthia Nixon, but Thursday’s election did see several incumbents in the state Legislature lose their seats.

In this combination of file photos, New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, left, speaks during a Democratic primary debate in Hempstead, N.Y., on Aug. 29, 2018, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a press conference in New York on July 18, 2018. Democratic primary voters in New York on Thursday, Sept. 13 will settle the primary battle between two-term Cuomo and liberal challenger Nixon. (J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday Pool, and Evan Agostini/Invision, File)

At least five — and possibly six — of the eight state Democratic senators who caucused for years with Republicans were unseated by Democratic challengers Thursday.

The controversial eight-member Independent Democratic Conference came back to the Democratic side this spring, but as voters proved Thursday night they were too late to save their seats.

Even with the IDC’s return to the left, Republicans maintained a one-vote majority in the chamber thanks to an alliance with 17th District Democrat Simcha Felder. Felder easily held off fellow Democrat Blake Morris on Thursday, 66 percent to 34 percent.

Some but not all of Thursday’s winners will face Republican opponents in November’s primary elections.

In the day’s biggest race, Cuomo won 65.6 percent of the votes with Nixon snagging 34.4 percent, close to the 33.5 percent of votes received by Cuomo’s 2014 primary challenger, Zephyr Teachout.

Both Nixon and Teachout ran to the left of the establishment Democrat, with Nixon this year claiming that Cuomo governs “like a Republican.”

Cuomo did not attend his own election night victory party in Manhattan, choosing to celebrate privately at the governor’s mansion in Albany.

In a much closer race, incumbent Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul took 53.3 percent of the vote for her re-election while Jumaane Williams garnered 46.7 percent.

Williams had polled at 21 percent to Hochul’s 43 on Monday. At that point 35 percent of voters were undecided.

Lieutenant gubernatorial candidates run alone in the primaries and then are linked to their party’s ticket for the general election. The Cuomo-Hochul ticket will face Republican gubernatorial candidate Marcus J. Molinaro and his running mate, Julie Killian, in November.

New York City Special Advocate Letitia James beat out a crowded field for the Democratic nomination to attorney general. Ballotpedia reported that she took 40.6 percent of the vote, followed by 31 percent to Teachout, the former gubernatorial contender who failed to oust Cuomo 2014. Sean Patrick Maloney ranked third with 25 percent, and Leecia Eve finished a far fourth with 3.4 percent. If James wins in November, she will be the first black woman elected to statewide office in New York.

James faced a barb from her Republican opponent, Keith Wofford, shortly after winning the nomination. Before midnight, Wofford released a statement implying James was a “career politician” who would “uphold the corrupt status quo.”

In the state Senate, former New York City councilman Robert Jackson beat incumbent Marisol Alcantara in the 31st District. Much-hyped Zellnor Myrie, former City Council legislative director, knocked off Jesse Hamilton in the 20th District, and former New York City Comptroller John Liu snagged Tony Avella’s 11th District seat.

It was a big night for women, as well: Former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer Alessandra Biaggi, with 54.4 percent of the vote, beat incumbent Jeffrey D. Klein (34th District), who garnered 45.6 percent.

In the 13th District, Jessica Ramos upset Jose Peralta.

In the Syracuse area, Rachel May appeared to defeat former IDC member David J. Valesky (53rd District), but held off declaring victory Friday morning, and Valesky refused to concede. The vote was called in May’s favor but both sides want to wait on absentee ballots.

According to Ballotpedia, the race is close: 8,013 votes for May and 7,407 for Valesky. There are well more than 600 absentee ballots in the district.

Brooklyn’s 18th District also hosted a closely watched race, though not to unseat an IDC member. There 27-year-old Democratic Socialist Julia Salazar took down longtime Senator Martin Malave Dilan, earning 58.5 percent to his 41.5 percent. Salazar was endorsed by Bronx Congressional hopeful and progressive star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Brooklyn-based Felder was not the only former IDC member to hold on to his seat. In Staten Island’s 23rd District, former IDC member Diane Savino defeated a challenge by Jasmine Robinson and Brandon Stradford with 67.2 percent of the vote.

Former IDC rep David Carlucci defeated grassroots candidate Julie Goldberg in a closer race, 54 percent to 46 percent.

State Assembly races had fewer upsets but one occurred in the 39th Assembly District where Catalina Cruz, a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, toppled incumbent Ari Espinal with 49 percent of the vote to Espinal’s 39.5 percent. Espinal entered the office in an April special election.

Incumbent Erik Bohen defeated challenger Timothy Nolan in the 142nd District, near Buffalo.

New York has some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country. As a closed primary state, voters had to be registered within a party to cast ballots. The New York City Board of Elections reported multiple complaints from people who had trouble voting or showed up at poll sites to find there had been flukes in their registries.

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