Friday, September 14, 2018

New York Governor- Race of the Day

53 Days Until Election Day

New York Governor

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

The 2016 election featured two major party nominees who resided in New York. Of course, it was not much of a contest, as the transplanted former New York Senator easily defeated the Empire State native, demonstrating the hefty advantage the Democrats have held statewide for a generation now.

With all that in mind, it seems like a foregone conclusion, that incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo, having just survived a primary challenge, will easily win a third term as Governor. It would be foolish to vote against that outcome, but there are some interesting dynamics at play. Cuomo is not very popular with some segments of his party, and even after his fairly solid primary win, New York's ballot access laws allows for other parties and candidates to be available options on the left that could seriously eat into his margin.

Even the most popular Governors of New York tend to fall out of favor in a state that does not have term limits. This was the case for the current Governor's father Mario Cuomo, who surprisingly a bid for a fourth term (a campaign managed by his son Andrew) to an upstart Republican. That Governor, George Pataki, who once had sky high popularity, was so out of favor as he ended his third term, that he would not have had a chance for reelection and his party has not come close since. This all means that this is likely Andrew Cuomo's final reelection campaign. (He also sought the office in 2002 before settling for state Attorney General.) Long thought of as having Presidential ambitions, he has insisted in no uncertain terms that he will finish his four year term, which means he would not run in what is expected to be a crowded 2020 field. If that is the case, it might be worth nothing that Cuomo, at least until recently, had perhaps among the most moderate records of those who might seek the Presidential nomination. His father had been considered a Presidential frontrunner for Democrats back in the late '80s and early '90s, but never took the plunge.

Cuomo's voice sounds much like his now late father, and he also shares the same reputation for being arrogant and a bit autocratic. Once married to a Kennedy, the Governor for years has now lived with former Food Network host Sandra Lee. As his state's party has moved to the left Cuomo, has had his share of disagreement over budgetary and educational issues with the very liberal Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio. Ethical concerns have also been present in the Cuomo Administration, as politicians in both parties have found themselves under indictment, or sentenced to prison, or forced to resign under scandal in recent years. There was talk that Cuomo was not willing to forcefully insist on standards for his own Administration. In 2006, he was surprisingly held to just 63 percent of the vote in the primary against a little known Democrat challenger who ran to his left. In the general election, his victory over a vastly underfunded Republican opponent was a somewhat anemic 52-39, well under expectations.

Cuomo seeking a third term could have seen many challengers. After a State Senator withdrew, the lone opponent for the incumbent was actress and activist Cynthia Nixon. Best known for playing one of the flighty gals on HBO's "Sex and the City", Nixon became an activist for left-wing causes, especially gay rights. After she became famous, and had been divorced from a husband, she married another woman and identified as a lesbian (She is also the mother of a transgendered son.) She cited the election of Donald Trump (whom I believe appeared on her show at least once) as the need to run for office because she felt Cuomo was not adequately fighting against the policies of the businessman who left Trump Tower for the White House and has basically not returned since. Sensing danger, and the new emergence of those on the left in his state, including Democratic Socialists, Cuomo has recently moved very much to the left on issues such as drug legalization and has been very vocal in opposing Trump. In a sense, Nixon and her allies won just by him doing this. Still though, a Cuomo ally referred to her as an "unqualified lesbian" and late in the primary, a mailer went out that accused her of anti-Semitism.

Their primary campaign was pretty personal and intense. The candidates met for one television debate and proceeded to talk over each other and call their opponent liars. It had a Trump vs. Hillary Clinton vibe, albeit in a primary. Even before that, Cuomo made a major gaffe, when trying to appeal to his party's liberal base, said words to the effect of America cannot be made great, because it was never that great. Even many on the left cringed, while those on the right took glee that Cuomo might have sunk any national ambitions he still had. The Governor quickly, but awkwardly tried to walk back the comment and Nixon of course criticized him both for making the comment and taking it back. Mayor de Blasio refused to endorse either candidate, which was basically considered a knock against the Governor.

While Nixon's brand of politics may have appeal in parts of New York, she did not exactly come across as a warm or endearing figure capable of winning many swing voters. She would find it hard to follow Ronald Reagan's career path. Both candidates had high negatives and because of that, it was assumed Cuomo would be able to hold on. There was a funny story from last Sunday complete with video of Nixon placing a lox and cinnamon raisin bagel order at a NYC deli that almost everyone agreed sounded disgusting. In the end, Cuomo won, but by a bit closer margin than the polls predicted. His margin of 66-34 was pretty much in line with the primary result against a female opponent four years earlier. In some other relieving news for the incumbent, his running-mate, current Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, won her primary, but a much closer margin over Nixon's preference Jumanee Williams. The African-American New York City Councilman had originally toyed with the idea of running against Cuomo. Her allied candidate for Attorney General, the woman who challenged Cuomo in 2014 also lost.

Under New York election law, candidates can run under the ballot designation of many parties, and thus both Nixon and Williams had already been nominated by the left-wing Working Families Party. She had said she would not actively campaign if she did not win the nomination of the Democrats and would in fact accept a sham nomination for a legislative seat she would not campaign for, just as a means of removing her name from the ballot. She actually has to stake the step to do so and it does not appear that Nixon has yet offered a formal endorsement of the Governor who defeated her. Besides the Working Family Party, which would be able to name a new nominee, there is also the perennial Green Party nominee, the infamous "Rent is Too Damn High" guy, and perhaps most significantly, Stephanie Miner, the former Mayor of Syracuse and ex state Democrat party chair. Running under the banner of the new "Serve America Movement" Party, her Lt. Governor partner is Michael Vople, the Republican Mayor of Pelham. It does not appear clear to me why exactly Miner is running as a quasi-centrist third party candidate after apparently considering running as a Democrat, but it is very possible that anti-Cuomo Democrats may vote for her.

Then, there are the Republicans. Several members of the GOP attempted to position themselves for the Republican nomination (as well as that of the Conservative Party), but for a variety of reasons all but one decided not to give it a go or to leave the race early. Those who dropped out included John DeFrancisco, the deputy State Senate Majority Leader (New York Republicans had at least up until now a weird alliance with handful of Senate Democrats allowing them to control the upper chamber), former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, and State House Minority Leader Brian Kolb.

 All of these candidates were stifled in their attempts to win endorsements from party leaders and committees heading into a state convention where a party endorsement was to be given. That designation went to Marc Molinaro, the Executive of Dutchess County and former Assemblyman. As his running-mate Molnario selected former Rye City Councilwoman Julie Killian, fresh off a special election State Senate defeat. Neither had to face the voters in a primary. Before being nominated at the state convention in May, Molinaro had a month earlier been selected as the Conservative nominee as well.

Very interestingly in Donald Trump's home state, a place where he dominated the field in the 2016 Presidential primary, the GOP nominee for Governor is someone who did not vote for Donald Trump in the general election. Molinaro says he wrote in the name of then Congressman Chris Gibson, whom at the time seemed to be preparing to challenge Cuomo for the Governorship this year. Molinaro has continued to keep a distance between himself and Trump and I have to wonder how Trump's acolytes in New York are able to get past this. The candidate is also taking moderate approaches on social issues popular with New Yorkers, saying he has "evolved" on some issues. To be sure though, Cuomo and the Democrats will try to tie him to national Republicans and allegations of "extremism" and to many voters, that will be enough.

Molinaro seems to be an appealing young candidate, and Cuomo has a ton of political baggage, especially after his whole botched "America was never great" comment. There will be multiple alternative left-leaning candidates on the ballot, even if Cynthia Nixon formally gets her name taken off. A Republican poll from the end of August even shows Cuomo and Molinaro somehow in a statistical tie. Other polls show Cuomo with a solid lead, although under 50 percent in some cases.

With all this in mind, if a Republican beats Andrew Cuomo, this year, it will be about four times more surprising than when his old man lost in 1994. The incumbent has about 20 times more money than the Republican and disaffected liberals and Nixon supporters will probably come home in the end, as long as Cuomo continues to talk negatively against Trump. He may not even need 50 percent to win with room to spare.

This could be the last stand for the Cuomos though politically.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

12 D  (2 Safe, 2 Likely,  5 Leans, 3 Tossup) 
12 R   (2 Safe, 5 Likely, 3 Leans, 2 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

19 D (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 2 Likely, 5 Leans, 3 Tossup)
19 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 5 Likely, 3 Leans, 2 Tossup)


At 9:40 AM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Corey: Cuomo wins with 64% of the statewide vote & I strongly agree this is his 3rd & likely final term inside the NY St Executive Mansion.


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