Petitions filed, budget completed; now we can get to the campaigning

April 7th was the deadline for candidates for office in New York State – federal, state, and local — to file petitions for the June 28th primary elections.  If a candidate for office does not have a primary election opponent, the petitions serve as their entry into the November election.  Statewide candidates who were endorsed by their respective parties at the February nominating conventions are exempt from circulating petitions.

We have now seen court action at least temporarily allowing the legislatively approved congressional, Assembly, and Senate districts to be used for 2022.  Stay tuned.  Redrawing the lines and pushing back the primary until August could happen.  Would the courts then require the entire petitioning work to be redone too?  A Court of Appeals ruling is expected by the end of April.

Word on the streets has been that all parties have had some difficulty securing petitions.  Winter weather made the process a challenge.  Since winter will always come at a time when the petitioning process is underway, given the June primary schedule, the Legislature should look at some practical adjustments to the current petition and filing schedule.  While on the subject, was Harry Wilson really paying people $40 an hour to gather petitions?

The petitioning process, subject to challenges and potential lawsuits, presents us with the following:

  • The Democratic petitions of Jumaane Williams and Tom Suozzi for governor, along with those for their potential lieutenant governor running mates, appear to be sufficiently over the signature requirements for inclusion on the ballot, thus qualifying them for the primary. Andrew Cuomo’s bluster about running in the primary turned out to be just that, bluster.
  • The Republican petitions of Harry Wilson appear sufficient to qualify him for the gubernatorial primary. The limited information we currently have about the petitions of Rob Astorino and Andrew Guiliani make it difficult to determine if they have sufficient signatures on their petitions. The Washington Post reported yesterday that Guiliani was himself circulating his petitions during a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Queens, followed by the same activity at a cigar bar. If you know anything about petitioning, such activities lead to suspicion about validity. Guiliani is not going to be the next governor, but as Donald Trump’s golfing buddy he could attract MAGA supporters in a primary, which could take votes away from Lee Zeldin.
  • Locally, out of the thirteen state legislative offices contained in whole or in part in Erie County, there will only be a party primary in the 60th Senate District, where incumbent Democrat Sean Ryan will face Ben Carlisle. Carlisle ran as a write-in candidate for mayor of Buffalo last year and received 219 votes. Around the end of 2021 he announced that he and his wife would be moving to Florida. During the mayoral campaign Carlisle said that he was not a Democrat or Republican. Evidently he changed his mind about some things.
  • Ed Rath, the Republican Senator from the 61st District, was placed geographically in the same district as Senator Tim Kennedy. Rath will not run for office this year.
  • Incumbent County Clerk Michael Kearns has filed Democratic primary petitions to challenge the party’s endorsed candidate, Melissa Hartman. While technically a Democrat (a DINO perhaps), Kearns has owed most of his political success to the Republican Party.

So what does it all mean?

The Democratic and Republican primaries for governor will dominate public attention right up until June 28th.  TV and radio ads, social media ads, and mailings will be everywhere.

The January 2022 financial filings of the candidates are the only documented information we have at the moment to assess the resources the candidates have available for their campaigns.  Hochul’s treasury far exceeds any other candidate.  The next filing with the Board of Elections is due on May 27th.

With the state budget settled look for Governor Hochul to shift into high gear for the primary.  The budget gives her several positive talking points about such things as criminal justice, childcare, ethics reform, the gasoline tax, and education funding.  And oh yeah, at least for Western New York, a new stadium and lease deal with the Buffalo Bills.

The Republican Party does not take to primary elections as well as Democrats.  In the last Republican primary for governor in 2010 insurgent Carl Paladino easily defeated the endorsed candidate, Rick Lazio. 

We are probably not done yet with Cuomo press announcements and perhaps some new TV ads that suggest that he is still considering a run for governor, with the emphasis now shifting to petitioning for an independent spot on the November ballot.  At least 45,000 valid signatures spread out through at least 13 of the state’s 26 congressional districts are needed.  The same obstacles to such a candidacy as a previous post outlined will make such an effort difficult or futile.  It is unlikely that Cuomo will file petitions for an independent line.

It appears that Democrats will work to set up an independent line for its statewide offices in November.  Some local candidates will join in the independent party line, which can serve as a substitute for acceptance of the Working Families Party line on the ballot.

Events will move quickly now.  Hochul is the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic primary.  Williams could bow out of the election as the Workings Families Party candidate in July.

Zeldin, based on the long-standing and solid party establishment support among Republican leadership, should be projected as that party’s primary winner but don’t bet too much on that proposition. Harry Wilson has been running some generic biographical TV ads so far but look now for an aggressive attack on the party’s establishment to give Republican voters a reason to abandon the party leadership’s choice.

These primaries are going to get nasty as we move toward June.  We will see how the voting public takes to it all, but for politico-aficionados it’s time to get the popcorn ready.  The show is about to begin.

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