Team Cuomo had a good night on Thursday.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and attorney general nominee Letitia James, the three endorsed Democrats, swept the Democratic primary Thursday. Cuomo and Hochul each beat back a challenge from their left.
Cuomo won a resounding victory over actress Cynthia Nixon, but it was important for Western New York that Hochul defeated Jumaane Williams, a New York City councilman.
In a state Democratic Party dominated by downstate politicians, Hochul is the only upstate voice at the top of state government. The former Hamburg Town Board member, Erie County clerk and member of Congress, was right in saying she had an electoral “firewall” in Western New York. In Erie and Monroe counties alone, Hochul outperformed her challenger by 53,843 votes, or nearly 60 percent of her total margin of victory. Hochul won with more than 53 percent of the vote.
Williams drew his electoral strength from Manhattan and Brooklyn, as expected. Hochul won by comfortable margins in the Queens, the Bronx and on Long Island.
Hochul is an old-fashioned retail campaigner who travels the state and shakes a lot of hands. She doesn’t depend on Facebook Live events or viral video moments to get her message across. Her friendly demeanor helps Hochul connect as well with voters in the Bronx as she does in Buffalo.
Thursday’s Democratic primary was notable for its high turnout – two and a half times more voters than in the primary four years ago. We are skeptical that it was passion for Cuomo or Nixon that drove so many people to the polls. The more likely cause: Democrat’s antipathy for President Trump. Anti-Trump sentiment was a common theme for all of the Democratic candidates for statewide office. The Democratic turnout was so high Thursday that Nixon, even though she lost to Cuomo by 30 percentage points, got 181,000 more votes than Cuomo did in winning the 2014 primary.
Cuomo – who in deep blue New York is considered a favorite in the general election contest with Republican Marc Molinaro – now faces a 52-day sprint to the Nov. 6 election. He has vowed to finish his term. “The only caveat is if God strikes me dead,” he said during a debate with Nixon.
The biggest unknown after Thursday’s primary election is the makeup of the Legislature. Democratic voters rejected six members of the Independent Democratic Conference, a bloc formed by eight Democratic senators who had caucused with Republicans. One of the most notable defeats was Sen. Jeffrey Klein of the Bronx, who was defeated by Alessandra Biaggi, a former aide to Cuomo. Democrats hope to tip control of the state Senate away from Republicans.
Stay tuned. All of this will be more clear after Nov. 6.