Election Preview: New York Gubernatorial Primary

Primary Election: September 13, 2018

General Election: November 6, 2018

New York_Andrew_Cuomo
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

As rumors of a 2020 presidential bid swirl, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will seek a third term after he was first elected in 2010. According to a January poll from Siena College, the Governor started the year with strong support. He had an overall approval rating of 62 percent and 76 percent among Democrats, an increase of 10 points from the year before. However, a corruption charge against his top aide depressed those numbers. In February, Siena revealed that Cuomo’s approval had dropped to 47 percent. In lieu of bad publicity, he remains popular enough to secure the nomination.

Cuomo has deep roots in the Empire State. His father, Mario, served as New York Governor from 1983 to 1994. A Queens native, Andrew has served as the Chair of the New York City Homeless Commission, New York Attorney General, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton. While he began his political career as a moderate, Cuomo has shifted left, becoming more aligned with progressive causes like climate change, fracking and education. During his 2018 state of the state address, Cuomo pledged to reform criminal justice and hold pharmaceutical distributors accountable for the opioid epidemic. He’s also pledged to push back against the federal government’s immigration efforts and new limits on state and local tax deductions.

Cuomo’s other vulnerability stems from his acrimonious relationship with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The Mayor and the Governor are at a loggerhead over funding the New York City Housing Authority and the city’s subways system, with both blaming each other.  On March 19, actress Cynthia Nixon from “Sex in the City” announced her candidacy, fueling the tension between De Blasio and Cuomo. As a De Blasio ally, Nixon has been a fixture in the city’s political scene, vociferously advocating for progressive issues like education. While Cuomo’s surrogates have already written off Nixon, Zephyr Teachout, a relatively unknown law professor, captured a surprising 34 percent in the 2014 primary against Cuomo. A strong performance from Nixon could drain some of Cuomo’s resources ahead of the general election.

Shortly before Nixon’s announcement, Siena released a poll showing Cuomo with a commanding 66-19 percent lead among Democratic voters. However, as the campaign ramps up, and Nixon taps into De Blasio’s New York City support network, she could narrow the gap. Nevertheless, Cuomo has already amassed a $30 million war chest and Nixon’s path remains difficult.

Under New York State Republican Committee rules, 456 members representing 62 counties and 150 assembly districts will select the nomination during the party convention in May. Based on the rules, each county committee gets a weighted vote based on how many people in that county voted for the GOP in the last governor’s election. As a result, some upstate committees will have more input than the committee from Manhattan.

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State Senator John DeFrancisco

In the GOP primary, State Senator John DeFrancisco has become a frontrunner after announcing his candidacy in late January. A state senator since 1993, DeFrancisco represents a district that encompasses the western half of Syracuse. While DeFrancisco is known of his ability to communicate policy and navigate legislation, his location in upstate New York will make it hard for the GOP to compete in the New York City suburbs in a general election. His predicament has led some Republican leaders to push for Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. While he hasn’t officially announced, Molinaro confirmed with GOP leaders in early March that he would run. His decision came after he won a straw poll among potential Republican nominees. Molinaro received 55 votes, while DeFrancisco had only 23.

Whether Molinaro or DiFrancisco earns the GOP nomination, they will have to compete with Cuomo’s vast fundraising apparatus. As a result, Inside Elections and The Cook Political Report have categorized the race as ‘Solid Democratic.’

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