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Erie County, downstate voters carry Andrew Cuomo to win over Marc Molinaro

Democrat Andrew M. Cuomo won a third term as governor of New York on Tuesday, crushing Republican Marc Molinaro and cementing his position as the state’s dominant political figure for the foreseeable future.

Along with running mate Kathy Hochul of Buffalo, Cuomo overwhelmed his opponent – the Dutchess County executive – mostly on the strength of a strong Democratic vote in New York City. And the anxiety did not last long, as the New York Times called the election for the incumbent just three minutes after polls closed statewide at 9 p.m.

Cuomo, in his victory speech, focused his remarks on President Trump – just as he did throughout the primary and general election campaigns.

“Mr. President, you forgot the first civics lesson you learned, when they asked you in elementary school to raise your hand and repeat, ‘I pledge of allegiance, to the United States of America,’ ” Cuomo said at the Sheraton New York Midtown Hotel.

“In New York, we are not Democrats or Republicans, we are New Yorkers,” Cuomo said to cheers.

Cuomo, meanwhile, was also was riding an early lead in Erie County, where a healthy turnout in the Democratic City of Buffalo – even with few local contests to draw voters to the polls – appeared to erase fears that Molinaro might prevail in upstate’s largest county.

But the night’s results made it clear the governor’s political success stems from his downstate home turf, which overwhelmed a significant negative vote north of Westchester and Rockland counties. As in the 2014 election when Republican Rob Astorino won most upstate counties and Suffolk County on Long Island, Cuomo lost many upstate voters who were attracted to Molinaro’s more conservative message and his criticism of the ethical problems plaguing the administration.

But Cuomo triumphed over it all. He emphasized he was never personally involved in crimes committed by members of his inner circle. He also sailed through criticism of his economic development policies.

Indeed, exit polls conducted by CNN showed the governor winning among all age groups, and 67 to 30 percent among women, though Molinaro scored a 49 to 46 percent victory with men. Whites voted for the Republican 49 to 46 percent, while Cuomo took the black vote by a 91 to 7 percent tally, and 78 to 18 percent among Latinos, according to the exit polls.

Cuomo rode the power of his incumbency, which he tapped with billions of dollars in state funding announcements this year, and led all polls by sizable margins throughout the year for both his primary and general election contests.

The two-term governor enjoyed that ride, in part, because of his nonstop fundraising machine, mostly from wealthy donors or companies with various business dealings before the government. Since the beginning of 2017, Cuomo has spent $27.9 million preparing for and engaging in his re-election bid.

That sum accounts for 84 percent of money spent by all candidates for governor, including those who dropped out long ago, according to an analysis of state election board records. (The numbers do not include what Cuomo, Molinaro and three minor party candidates spent in the last two weeks; that information will not be made public for another month.)

Though he later dismissed reporters, pundits and others for his level of concern about the Democratic primary challenge from actress Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo spent $25 million running against the liberal activist. She ended up spending $2.3 million for the September primary.

The numbers also do not include millions of dollars more spent on Cuomo’s behalf by Super PAC groups, led chiefly by unions. They blanketed the airwaves, websites and social media platforms, as well as roadsides, with ads promoting another term for Cuomo, who has driven through a host of labor-friendly policies during his past term.

Money was something Molinaro never had for his run against Cuomo. The GOP candidate had to compete with a relentless fundraising effort by interests who were trying to keep the Republicans in control of the state Senate, and many of those kinds of donors come from the same pool of political givers.

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