Eight weeks to go

So the national primary election season, which stretched from March through yesterday, is finally over. New York brought up the rear. (I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not that is a pun.)

Andrew Cuomo’s campaign went through more than $21.4 million so far in 2018 (as of August 31st) to make sure that things came out okay for him. And they did. His 31 percent margin of victory would probably have been a little bigger if he didn’t get greedy by staging a grand opening for the new $3 billion plus Mario Cuomo Tappen Zee Bridge, only to have the bridge shut down the next day for safety reasons.

Then last weekend Cuomo denied having any pre-knowledge of a slanderous brochure attacking Cynthia Nixon, suggesting that she is anti-Semitic. The stunt strangely parallels the “Vote for Cuomo, not the Homo” signs that appeared late in the 1977 New York City mayoral campaign when Mario ran against Ed Koch.

Nixon had only a superficial understanding of state issues. She essentially wrote off upstate. She focused on education, ignoring the fact that New York State already spends far more per pupil than any other state in the union.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul was seriously challenged by Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams, but upstate and New York City’s suburbs provided her with the votes she needed.  She carried three of the five boroughs in the City.  Hochul’s victory margin was about 6 points.

The Attorney General primary was highly competitive. Letitia James’ victory over Zephyr Teachout (by about 9 percent) was good in a crowded primary field.  Teachout’s results seem to show that the endorsement of the New York Times can only carry a candidate so far.  Sean Patrick Maloney will now have to shift gears to re-start his congressional re-election campaign.

Perhaps as important as the election results was the turnout in the Democratic primaries throughout the state.  The statewide turnout was up about 155 percent over 2014 numbers, reaching to nearly 24 percent of state registered Democrats, with two percent of election districts yet to report.  Erie County’s turnout was it was approximately 25 percent.  It’s beginning to look like a strong blue wave in New York State in 2018.

So the tickets are set and Election Day is less than eight weeks away. The issues in the governor’s race will not be a whole lot different in the general election than they were in the primary, except that Republican Marc Molinaro will likely hit Cuomo harder on corruption issues than Nixon did. Having Chris Collins as a running mate, either for Congress or for Clarence Town Councilman, might complicate things a bit for Molinaro. Cuomo already has an ad on television hitting Molinaro on ethical issues involving Dutchess County contracts (Molinaro is the County Executive) and even notes Mrs. Molinaro’s role in working for one of the county contractors.

It was almost like upstate did not exist in the Democratic primary, but Republicans of necessity will need to introduce upstate issues. They will hit hard at economic development programs that have produced meager results as well as gun issues and transportation matters. Somehow they will talk about tax cuts, but that could invite a counter attack by Cuomo about how Republican tax legislation in Washington has hurt New York State.

Cuomo still has the millions left in his campaign account with the ability to raise more as necessary. Molinaro’s treasury was relatively low when last reported in July ($887,239). We won’t see another report from him until early October.

Molinaro’s team will hope that Nixon continues her campaign on the Working Families line she holds, right into November, but that party’s leaders will do whatever they can to push her into a no-effort candidacy for Assembly in the district she lives in to permit a Cuomo substitution. They would also need to figure out where to move Williams to allow a Hochul substitution for lieutenant governor.  The Working Families will want to maintain their guaranteed ballot status for the next four years, which requires their candidate for governor to receive at least 50,000 votes.

There will also be Stephanie Miner’s independent campaign effort for governor on the Serve America Movement line and Howie Hawkins’ repeat performance as the Green Party candidate. Despite Republican hopes that those candidacies will subtract votes from Cuomo, there is a reasonable chance that they may simply draw anti-Cuomo votes that might otherwise go to Molinaro if the election was just a Democrat/Republican contest.

The race for attorney general has the potential for getting interesting if Republican candidate Keith Wofford can make any headway with a campaign that emphasizes his plans to be a Republican watchdog of a Democrat administration, assuming he chooses to do so. He has raised a significant treasury ($1,023,847 as of July). Of course Letitia James will be hitting hard on her plans to investigate Donald Trump’s activities in New York State. She will need to re-build her campaign treasury after the primary, but anti-Trump money will make that easy.

The contests that will determine control of the State Senate are muddled at the moment but will clarify soon.

In other statewide news not involving primaries, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will be overwhelming re-elected, as will United States Senator Kirsten Gilibrand.

Local campaigns

The winning efforts of Sue Maxwell Barnes for Erie County Judge in the Democratic, Republican, Independence and Reform party primaries moreorless guarantees her election in November. She also has the Conservative Party nomination.  City Court Judge Debra Givens was ahead by just two votes in the Working Families Party primary with two election districts missing, and she will continue as the Women’s Equality Party candidate. The support of State Democratic Party Chairman and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to elect Republican-endorsed Givens did not succeed, and it seems to have stirred some resentment among Democrats.

Senator Tim Kennedy, as expected, won re-nomination in the Democratic primary by a wide margin.

It will be interesting to see if the Democratic candidate for Erie County Clerk, Angela Marinucci, can parlay a likely strong Democratic turnout into an opportunity for a win in November. Republican incumbent Michael Kearns, who won minor party primaries yesterday, certainly has much more of a political history. Moneywise the two campaigns aren’t too far apart.

There are limited opportunities for changes in the local state legislative delegation. The race for the Assembly in the 146th District features Republican incumbent Ray Walter and Democrat Karen McMahon. Walter’s margins of victory in past campaigns have been slim, and an energized Amherst Democratic Committee that swept all local offices last year will be looking for another victory in the Assembly campaign in a district that is primarily based in the town.

In the 142nd Assembly District Republican Eric Bohen is the incumbent, but he is a minority party legislator who has only been in office for five months and has no track record to run on. The Democrat whom he defeated in the April special election, Pat Burke, should also benefit from a much stronger Democratic turnout eight weeks from now than what came out in April.  Bohen won his Republican and Conservative party primaries on Thursday, but lost the Independence line.

Finally, a shout out to a candidate whose stick-to-itiveness impresses. Luke Wochensky is the Democratic candidate for the 147th district Assembly seat currently held by Republican incumbent David DiPietro. In the past two elections DiPietro ran unopposed. This year, however, he has a tenacious challenger who has made a strong effort in a difficult district. He has organized a serious campaign effort and has plugged away at achieving some earned media. His candidacy will also help contribute to the Democratic turnout in November.

A look at past election results and the political maneuvering in the suddenly exciting race in the 27th Congressional District

Last week’s indictment of 27th District Congressman Chris Collins and others on insider trading charges has encouraged another look at the possible competitiveness of a district that has been the most overwhelming Republican one in New York State. National House race political gurus have moved their reviews of the district from strong Republican to leaning Republican. That’s not a major shift thus far, but the consensus appears to be that Democratic candidate Nate McMurray’s chances have improved from where they stood just ten days ago. Continue reading

Emails from Elizabeth and Devin; some observations and heard-on-the-streets

We all get on a variety of email listservs over time. We might sign up for some of them, but many are just a waste of time.

If you’re in to following politics the emails can turn into a flood. From the various media outlets there are dozens of newsletters. Very few of them write original content. Most are aggregators of news and opinion pieces from other sources, and they generally overlap with one another. If you read one of the sites you can probably pass on reading 90 percent of the others available daily. Continue reading

How the suburban wave might play into New York’s 2018 races

As the dust settles from Doug Jones’ stunning upset victory in the Alabama Senate race, inquiring minds are wondering just how much the factors in that race and others in 2017 might figure into races in New York State in 2018.

On the surface, there does not presently appear to be much happening in next year’s local state legislative races. You can’t beat somebody with nobody. On the other hand, there are now four potential Democratic challengers to Chris Collins in the mix. Continue reading

Heading into the home stretch — the final pre-election financial reports

The 2017 election is just a week away. Despite a generally very quiet campaign season, the TV ads are increasing and mailboxes are filling up with those oversized political postcards.

The candidates are spending lots of money but it will not translate into much voter enthusiasm. Look for a countywide turnout of less than 20 percent, with exceptions in the Towns of Amherst, Hamburg, Tonawanda and West Seneca. Continue reading

The question of a constitutional convention; democracy in action

There are some “givens” when a citizen, elected official or journalist thinks about the government of New York State. The governing process is messed up. Special interests dominate legislation and budgets. The opportunities for average Joes or Janes to have some say in things is limited, or maybe non-existent.

The State Legislature has been labeled the most dysfunctional in the nation. Statewide elected officials and legislators have been run out of office. Many have gone to prison. Continue reading

What if they gave an election and nobody came?

Tuesday’s primary elections were some of the most anticlimactive political events that I have ever seen – a very boring day. It was like Erie County voters collectively sighed, “whatever!”

The race for Mayor of Buffalo in the Democratic primary seemed pre-ordained for a long time. Mark Schroeder and Betty Jean Grant gave spirited efforts. Schroeder’s TV ads were very well done and he put the best effort into telling voters what he would do in the next four years. For the most part Schroeder and Grant’s attacks on Mayor Brown’s record were professional and controlled. Continue reading