Cuomo trumps primary challenge from Nixon – especially in Nassau

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his running mates defeated Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic gubernatorial primary election. (Photo by Rebecca Klar)
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that all schools will be closed until April 1. (Photo by Rebecca Klar)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo beat back a challenge from progressive activist and actress Cynthia Nixon on Thursday night, securing nearly two-thirds of the vote in a high turnout primary and even higher support among Nassau County Democrats.

Cuomo, who is seeking his third term as governor, secured about 64.5 percent of votes – or 975,664 – to Nixon’s 33.82 percent, or 511,661 votes, according to state election records.

His rate of victory was even higher in Nassau County, where more than three quarters of voters – or 71,543 – cast a ballot for him. Only 22 percent of Nassau voters, or 20,508, voted for Nixon.

In total, more than 1.5 million of the state’s 5.62 million Democrats voted. Some 76,282 of Nassau County’s active 368,913 Democrats voted.

Nixon, an actress and activist, sought to showcase herself as a progressive in favor of single-payer – or publicly funded – healthcare, universal rent control, more funding for public schools and fixing public transit.

She also attacked Cuomo as not doing enough on campaign finance reform, using “the MTA like an ATM,” reproductive rights and only moving to the left on issues like marijuana after she entered the race.

Cuomo had cast himself as an experienced executive with a record of progressive achievements on gun control, gay marriage, paid family leave and setting a $15 minimum wage. Cuomo also framed himself as the best equipped to challenge President Donald Trump’s agenda.

Steve Markowitz, the vice chairman of the Nassau County Democratic Party and president of the Great Neck Democratic Club, attributed the victory of Cuomo’s team to Nixon being seen as “someone who would focus most of her attention to helping the city, to the detriment of Long Island.”

“I think in general, despite some concerns about issues of corruption surrounding the governor, most people view him as having done a very good job and as having treating Nassau County, as well as Long Island, very fairly,” Markowitz said.

Among the Long Island issues, Cuomo seemed mindful of were school aid and the importance of the property tax cap, Markowitz said, while maintaining a generally progressive record.

Craig Burnett, an assistant professor of political science at Hofstra University, said team Cuomo’s edge in Nassau likely stemmed from Nixon’s message going too far left and union support getting out the vote for Cuomo.

“Clearly this is Cuomo country,” Burnett said. “I think voters are very leery of some of the programs that Nixon was talking about, especially Medicare-for-All. That’s not going to work very well in Nassau, I think.”

The race for Lt. Governor was closer with Jumaane Williams, a New York City councilman, sometimes showing himself ahead of incumbent and Cuomo running mate Kathy Hochul. Ultimately Hochul won 731,575 to 640,586, a margin of 48.39 to 42.37 percent, with other ballots either being blank, void, or write-in candidates.

In Nassau County, Hochul handily topped Williams 62.77 percent to 33.2 percent, or 58,001 to 30,674. The rest of the ballots were either blank, void, or write-ins.

Letitia James, the current public advocate for New York City and a former city councilwoman, made history by becoming the first African American woman to secure a major statewide party nomination in New York.

James secured 38.67 percent of the vote, or 578,433 votes. Zephyr Teachout, a progressive attorney, author and Fordham University law professor, earned second with 29.52 percent of votes – or 441,622.

Sean Patrick Maloney, currently a U.S. representative for New York’s 18th district, was third with 356,699 votes or 23.84 percent.  Leecia Eve, the former deputy secretary for economic development for Cuomo and currently a commissioner with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey won 3.24 percent of votes, or 48,500.

In Nassau County, a stronger plurality of voters went toward James; 31,755 voters, or 41.63 percent voted for her. Maloney had 27.41 percent of votes, or 20,911, and Teachout had 22.3 percent, or 17,010.

Burnett said the outcomes of the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general races weren’t very surprising.

But Burnett said what was a bit surprising, due to a lack of polling, was that six of eight state Democratic senators formerly aligned with the Independent Democratic Caucus lost their primary races – which could have some consequences.

“The tee here is whether the Democrats here are actually able to get a majority [in the state Senate],” Burnett said, “If they get the majority… I suspect that will change the nature of how Democrats operate.”

“You’ll see a shift to the left,” Burnett added, “but not an extreme one.”

Cuomo will now face Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor, in the general election.

About the author

Janelle Clausen

Janelle Clausen is a reporter with Blank Slate Media covering the Great Neck peninsula and Town of North Hempstead. She previously freelanced for the Amityville Record, Massapequa Post and the Babylon Beacon. When not reporting, the south shore native can...
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