NY primary exposes Cuomo's problems with the left
Albany, N.Y. (AP) — Incumbent governors with national aspirations, a long list of accomplishments and flush bank accounts typically don't worry about primary challenges, especially one mounted by a little-known professor who moved to the state five years ago.
So it was unusual when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo found himself facing a spirited fight from rebels in his own Democratic party — environmentalists, unhappy public workers, critics of Albany's insider culture and voters disturbed by Cuomo's dismissive treatment of his opponent, Fordham University professor Zephyr Teachout.
Cuomo claimed a comfortable 62 percent in Tuesday's Democratic matchup, but Teachout's 34 percent — she won half of the state's 62 counties — stunned observers who had predicted she would win a 20 percent protest vote.
Voter Vivien Traiman said Cuomo's stance on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, or fracking, topped the reasons she voted for Teachout.
"I want to defeat Cuomo, but I'm sure we can't," she said outside her Manhattan polling place Tuesday. "But we can send a message."
Cuomo did best in populous areas like New York City and Buffalo, winning 82 percent in Bronx County, 77 percent in Erie County and 74 percent in Queens. All are areas where Cuomo could depend on Democratic power structures and labor unions to mount sophisticated get-out-the-vote efforts on election day.
Teachout's biggest margins came from more rural areas, winning 78 percent of the vote in Columbia County in the Hudson Valley, 71 percent in Schoharie County west of Albany. She also picked up three counties — Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer — that are home to many state workers. Teachout was endorsed by the Public Employees Federation, the second-largest state worker union.
The governor and his supporters have tried to minimize Teachout's numbers, noting turnout for the election was a low 10 percent. And they specifically chalk up her support to three groups: fracking opponents; state workers unhappy with contracts under the Cuomo administration; and public teachers who oppose the teacher evaluation system.
Fracking is now on hold in New York as the state conducts a review of its potential environmental and health impacts. Some critics of the practice worry that Cuomo will ultimately allow it, though the governor has said he wants to wait for the science before making a decision. Teachout, who had the endorsement of the Sierra Club, supports a complete ban.
Teachout, however, said Friday that there was more to her surprising showing than two narrow segments of voters.
"The fracktivists were critical and the public employees were critical, but you don't get 60 percent of Albany with just those two groups," she said.
Cuomo showed no indication he would now aggressively pursue Teachout supporters, acknowledging he won't please everyone.
"If you're going to do this job right, you can't try to make everybody happy," he said on Wednesday.
Teachout's performance with voters in rural upstate counties surprised many observers and prompted theories about their motivation: opposition to Cuomo's support for gun control? Concerns about fracking? Marist College political science professor Lee Miringoff, who leads Marist's polling operations, cautioned against easy generalizations in low-turnout elections. In some counties fewer than 1,000 total votes were cast.
"Very small groups of voters in small areas can have more of an impact," he said. Without exit polling, it's hard to know the motivation, he said.
With few resources compared to Cuomo, Teachout said her campaign adopted a focus on rural upstate areas because she found it easier to engage the media there, she said.
Voters interviewed by The Associated Press listed fracking, Cuomo's dismantling of the anti-corruption Moreland Commission, and his response to his primary challenger as reasons they cast ballots for Teachout. For most of the campaign, Cuomo studiously ignored Teachout, refusing to use her name or debate her and even turning away from her when she approached him at a recent New York City parade.
"I'm sick of seeing the same old boys' network," said Caroline Faison, of Manhattan, who said Cuomo's treatment of Teachout and his management of corruption troubled her. "I'm willing to give a woman a chance."
Cuomo voters cited the governor's support for same-sex marriage and gun control, and his pragmatic approach to governing.
"He is a professional," voter Bruce Kraemer said. "He knows what he's doing."
Cuomo now faces Republican Rob Astorino and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins in the November election.
by David Klepper, Associated Press
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
The Gayly – September 14, 2014 @ 9:30am