2018 Primary Recap: Governor Cuomo Defeats Cynthia Nixon, Former Senate Independent Democratic Conference Members Fall to Progressive Challengers

Governor Andrew Cuomo soundly defeated challenger Cynthia Nixon with 65% of the vote in the September 13th Gubernatorial Democratic Primary. Governor Cuomo’s decisive victory came despite recent negative media attention surrounding several trials involving former staff and close associates, a campaign mailer targeting Nixon, and criticism over what appeared to be a rush to open the new Tappan Zee Bridge, named after the Governor’s now deceased father.

In her concession speech, Nixon called her campaign a “movement” and discussed how her platform pushed Governor Cuomo to embrace more progressive policies, citing his recent consideration of legalizing recreational marijuana. Nixon could remain on the Ballot in November since she has the backing of the Working Families Party.
Governor Cuomo, seeking his third term in office, will face Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro-R in the November General Election. Molinaro was uncontested in the Republican Primary.

Governor Cuomo’s running mate and incumbent Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul prevailed over her challenger NYC Councilman Jumaane Williams 53% to 46% in the Democratic Primary. Williams, who ran on an activist platform, performed well in parts of New York City but the Lieutenant Governor bested him upstate.
Letitia James, the New York City Public Advocate, emerged victorious in a 4-way Democratic Primary for Attorney General with 41% of the vote. James, who was endorsed by Governor Cuomo, won the nomination in a contentious race. Coming in second, Fordham Law Professor Zephyr Teachout received 31% of the vote. Hudson Valley Congressman, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney followed with 25% of the vote, and former aide to Hillary Clinton, Leecia Eve took 3%.
Ms. James will face Republican Keith Wofford in November. Wofford is an attorney and Co-Managing Partner of Ropes & Gray’s New York City office. Should James win the Attorney General election in November, she will become the first black woman to ever hold statewide office in New York.
The results of the Democratic Primary elections are an attestation of the political uncertainty looming over the New York State Senate. Seven incumbent Democratic Senators lost their respective primaries and five incumbent Republican Senators will retire this year. Regardless of any change in party control of the upper Chamber, there is going to be a plethora of new faces in 2019.

Incumbents of the now dissolved Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) faced difficult primary challenges, with six of the eight members losing their contests. The Independent Democratic Conference had drawn criticism for its power-sharing agreement with the Senate Republican Conference. This coalition agreement, critics say, prevented Democrats from passing progressive policies.

In an unprecedented upset, Senate Deputy Majority Leader and former Leader of the IDC, Jeffrey Klein was defeated by Alessandra Biaggi in the Democratic primary for the Senate’s 34th District. Senator Klein has held the seat which covers parts of the Bronx and Westchester County since 2005. Klein reportedly spent over $2 million to Ms. Biaggi’s $250,000 on the race. He was a major target of progressives for his role in orchestrating a power-sharing agreement between the IDC with Republican Conference.
Biaggi is an attorney and former aide to Governor Cuomo. She is also the granddaughter of former Rep. Mario Biaggi. She now faces Republican Richard Ribustello in November.

Klein will remain on the General Election ballot on the Independence Party line, but it is unclear if he will continue his campaign.

The former IDC Members who were defeated in Democratic primaries for their respective seats are as follows:

  • Senator Marisol Alcantara was defeated by former NYC Council Member Robert Jackson in the 31st Senate District which encompasses West Harlem;
  • Senator Tony Avella was defeated by former NYC Comptroller John Liu in the 11th Senate District which covers parts of Queens;
  • Senator Jose Peralta was defeated by community organizer and labor activist Jessica Ramos in the 13th Senate District which covers parts of Queens;
  • Senator Jesse Hamilton was defeated by attorney Zellnor Myrie in the 20th Senate District which covers parts of Brooklyn and;
  • Senator David Valesky was defeated by Syracuse University Professor Rachel May in the 53rd Senate district which covers Allegheny, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and parts of Livingston Counties.

Two former IDC members however, did secure victories in their Democratic Primaries. Senators David Carlucci (Senate District 38 – Rockland County) and Diane Savino (Senate District 23 – Staten Island) managed to beat their challengers at the polls.

Senator Simcha Felder defeated his Democratic Primary opponent Blake Morris for the 17th Senate District. Senator Felder’s alignment with Republicans has long been source of frustration for Democrats. His decision to caucus with Republicans allowed them to maintain a one-seat majority.

Senator Martin Malave Dilan was defeated by Democratic Socialist candidate Jessica Salazar in the Democratic Primary for the Senate’s 18 District which covers Brooklyn. Dilan has held the seat since 2003. Although he was not a member of the IDC, Dilan was criticized for his ties to real estate interests in New York City.

Overall, incumbents in the New York State Assembly fared better in their respective primaries.

However, in a stunning Democratic Primary upset, incumbent Assemblywoman and Deputy Speaker Earlene Hooper was bested by organizational psychologist Taylor Raynor in the Democratic Primary for Assembly District 18. Hooper has held the seat which encompasses Hempstead, NY and parts of Nassau County for the past 30 years.

Incumbent Assemblyman Joseph Errigo was defeated by Marjorie Bynes in the Republican Primary for Assembly District 133. Byrnes is an attorney and the Caledonia Village Trustee. The District covers Livingston County, and parts of Monroe and Stueben Counties.

The General Election will be held Tuesday, November 6th.