Cynthia Nixon had celebrity, media attention and strong progressive credentials at a time when voters fed up with the establishment have been eager to support Democratic insurgents.
But she fared little better than law professor Zephyr Teachout, a virtual unknown when she ran for governor four years ago.
Much like Teachout before her, Nixon was walloped by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in Thursday’s Democratic primary for governor, with one notable exception: The Capital Region, which proved to be a Nixon stronghold.
If you look at county-by-county election results, you’ll see that Cuomo took most of the state pretty handily, but was rejected by local voters.
Albany, Schenectady, Schoharie, Rensselaer, Montgomery and Fulton counties all backed Nixon, as did a handful of outlying counties, such as Washington and Otsego.
You shouldn’t be.
By now it should be abundantly clear that the Capital Region is Cuomo’s Achilles’ heel — that the people who live here just don’t like him very much and will happily vote for any alternative.
Capital Region voters backed Teachout in 2014, and if Cuomo runs for a fourth term I suspect they’ll back his primary opponent, if he has one.
It won’t really matter who that opponent is — if a giraffe were to run against Cuomo in 2022, my money would be on the giraffe, at least in the Capital Region.
A sizable percentage of Capital Region Democrats headed to the polls Thursday not so much because they wanted to vote for Nixon but because they wanted to vote against Cuomo.
It’s a subtle distinction, but it explains why Nixon did well in the Capital Region despite never seeming to generate much in the way of grassroots support. She wasn’t Cuomo — and for many voters, that was enough.
Cuomo’s poor Capital Region performance raises a basic, yet difficult to answer, question: Why is Cuomo so unpopular here?
The answer, I suspect, has more to do with Cuomo’s status as one of the area’s largest employers than matters of ideology.
Capital Region voters are more familiar with how Cuomo runs the state than voters in any other part of the state, and the primary results suggest they don’t like what they see. Many of them head to the polls to send a message to an unpopular boss.
If Cuomo runs in four years, I expect the outcome in the Capital Region to be very similar to this year’s outcome, and the outcome in 2014.
The Capital Region’s dislike of Cuomo is deep and real — and it isn’t going away anytime soon.