ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wants to change the 2020 New York primary dates for congressional, state and presidential races.
But he’s not yet suggesting what the actual date should be.
The governor’s comments, made on an Albany radio station Friday morning, come three days after the state Senate sent him a bill – passed by the Legislature in June – to set the presidential primary date as April 28.
Cuomo said he thinks the presidential primary should be earlier so New York can be more “impactful” in the race. NY1 reported last night he was eyeing a February primary for president; today, Cuomo said a February date “is really not viable, politically."
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Democrats in that house would not support a February primary for president. Asked about consolidating the federal and state primaries to one day next year, Michael Murphy, the Senate spokesman, said: "The calendar is set."
Democrats in the Assembly also tossed cold water on the Cuomo idea. "This is not something we are considering. We have gotten no indication from our members that this is something they are interested in," said Mike Whyland, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
It’s not certain why Cuomo is bringing up the subject now and not in June, when legislators were considering the presidential primary date; the 2019 legislative session ended in June. The sponsor of the April 28 bill before Cuomo now is Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat. Cuomo and Gianaris have a well-known dislike for one another.
In his radio interview, Cuomo said it makes no sense to have separate dates for congressional and state primaries in June and the presidential primary contest on April 28. He said it will discourage voter participation and cost an extra $20 million to host the two separate dates.
It’s unclear if Cuomo wants state lawmakers to return to Albany in a special session to take up his still-murky primary date consolidation. It’s also uncertain how many hundreds of thousands of dollars a special session would cost taxpayers – in per diem payments to lawmakers and in travel costs to bring legislators and their staffs back to Albany.
Uncertain, too, is what havoc a different – and earlier – consolidated primary date might have on the 2020 legislative session, which already faces major scheduling changes next year because of the new June date for state candidate primaries. March would seem especially problematic, for instance, because that's the month lawmakers will be crunching to get a state budget adopted before the April 1 fiscal year start.
Cuomo offered various points, and counterpoints, to his idea. He said holding a presidential primary on April 28 puts New York in a “no man’s land” because it falls after the Super Tuesday primaries.
At the same time, he cited Democratic National Committee rules that penalize states – with fewer delegates allowed to attend the national convention in 2020 – that make their primary contests very early in the process. New York Democrats would not want an erosion in their delegate count because a larger group “could be instrumental at the convention" if the primary contests don’t settle on a candidate to run against Republican President Donald Trump. (Cuomo also raised concerns about angering state Democratic Party insiders who don’t want to see their chance of attending the convention next July in Milwaukee.)
“You at least have to coordinate the schedules, in my opinion," Cuomo said of holding the presidential, congressional, state Senate and state Assembly primaries all on one day sometime in 2020. “Otherwise, it’s all a mockery.’’
Congressional and state primaries are now set to be held June 23.