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No surprises


Despite a bit of drama leading up to the New York state primary elections last week, the day turned out pretty much as expected. Voters may be disgusted with the state of the state's politics, and rumors persist of a revolt within rank-and-file Democrats, but for the most part, none of that was evident in the election returns. The Democratic Party establishment won.

Governor Andrew Cuomo campaigned hard but had no trouble defeating challenger Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic primary. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Governor Andrew Cuomo campaigned hard but had no trouble defeating challenger Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic primary.

Governor Andrew Cuomo will head the Democratic ticket on November 6, having overwhelmed his challenger in the primary, "Sex and the City" star and activist Cynthia Nixon. Cuomo's running mate will be the person he wanted it to be, incumbent Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. The party establishment's choice for attorney general, Letitia James, won in that race.

(James took 40.6 percent of the vote, Zephyr Teachout 31 percent, Sean Patrick Maloney 25 percent, and Leecia Eve, 3.4 percent.)

Former Monroe County Democratic Party chair Jamie Romeo easily defeated her two challengers for the 136th state Assembly seat. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Former Monroe County Democratic Party chair Jamie Romeo easily defeated her two challengers for the 136th state Assembly seat.

And in Monroe County, Democratic Party chair Jamie Romeo easily won her race to succeed Joe Morelle in the New York State Assembly. (Romeo won about 62 percent of the votes, according to the unofficial returns, Jaclyn Richard 26 percent, and Todd Grady 12 percent.)

The results underscore how hard it is to challenge the political party establishment in New York. And Cuomo has become a particularly powerful force, backed in the primary not only by big donors but by also numerous unions and progressive activist groups, including some who had bitterly opposed him in the past.

Toward the end of the campaign, Cuomo seemed to be deliberately trying to emphasize his worst characteristics. He rushed the opening of the bridge replacing the Tappan Zee. And when the state Democratic Party sent out an offensive, blatantly false mailer smearing Nixon, he insisted that his hands were perfectly clean. Democratic voters rewarded him with about 64 percent of the vote, according to the preliminary unofficial returns. (His Monroe County take: 60 percent.)

Jumaane Williams, a New York City Council member who some observers thought might serve as a counter and a prod to the governor, ran a strong campaign for lieutenant governor. But thanks to voters in Western New York, Williams lost to Hochul, who's from the Buffalo area. Williams received 42 percent of the votes to Hochul's 48 percent. (In Monroe County, Hochul won about 66 percent of the vote.)

Cuomo still has to run in the November 6 general election. And in that race, in addition to Republican Marc Molinaro, Cynthia Nixon is on the ballot on the Working Families line. Theoretically, she could get more votes that day than she did in last week's primary, since New Yorkers who are enrolled in third parties or in no party at all can vote in the general election. But the anti-establishment and progressive movement base is split three ways in that race. Also on the ballot are perennial Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who is the candidate of the anti-corruption, fiscal-responsibility Serve America Movement.

The more interesting news from last week's primary came from state Senate races, where there were some significant Democratic upsets that could have a real impact starting next year.

Registered Democrats are actually in the majority in the Senate, 32 to 31. But one of them, Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, has caucused with the Republicans since joining the Senate in 2012. In addition, some other Senate Democrats formed the Independent Democratic Caucus and have sided with Republicans. Together, they have kept Republicans in control of the Senate and blocked important progressive legislation that would provide stronger abortion rights protection, single-payer health care, and reforms of the state's voting legislation.

Last spring, Cuomo brokered a deal to lure the IDC Democrats back to the fold, but there's no guarantee that Republicans wouldn't lure them back. Last week, though, six of the eight members of the IDC lost to progressive Democratic challengers.

Felder defeated his primary challenger last week, so Republicans could still maintain their one-vote control of the Senate. If Democrats pick up three Republican seats in the general election, though, that would give them enough to counter Felder and the two remaining IDC Democrats.

In other Rochester-area races:

There'll be a change on the Rochester school board come January. Three Democrats were running for two seats in their party's primary: two incumbents, Melanie Funchess and Beatriz LeBron, who were appointed last January to succeed board members who left mid-term, and activist Judith Davis, an intellectual property specialist at Bausch + Lomb.

The Board of Election's unofficial results have LeBron placing first, with 36.77 percent of the vote; Davis second with 32.47 percent, and Funchess third, with 30.53 percent. The Republican Party isn't running a candidate for school board, so in January Davis will join the board and LeBron will return. They'll serve for a year but will have to run again in November 2019 for a full term.

In the Democrats' City Court primary, Michael Lopez, an assistant public defender, defeated attorney Gil Perez, 68 percent to 32 percent.

Longtime Assembly member David Gantt prevailed against challenger Ann Lewis, receiving 58 percent of the vote. Gantt has no challenger in the November general election. And in a Republican Party primary for the 133rd state Assembly seat, challenger Marjorie Byrnes solidly defeated incumbent Joe Errigo, winning nearly 63 percent of the votes cast. She'll face Democrat Barbara Baer in November.