New York

Politicos say voter enthusiasm is tepid ahead of Tuesday’s elections

Voters cast their ballots during the first early elections at Niskayuna Town Hall in Niskayuna on Saturday, October 26, 2019.
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Voters cast their ballots during the first early elections at Niskayuna Town Hall in Niskayuna on Saturday, October 26, 2019.

Voters who feel a step behind on the elections set for Tuesday, Aug. 23, may take some solace in this political science professor’s perspective:

“The contests were so under the radar that I almost didn’t remember to early vote,” said Zoe M. Oxley, professor at Union College, who will be out of town next week. “I always vote, and it totally escaped my attention.”

Oxley said she’s not expecting strong voter turnout Tuesday. Early voting began Aug. 13.

“Generally speaking, this is a primary that seems under the radar,” Oxley said.

Or, as Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said of expected turnout: “I think it’ll be pretty darn low.”

Tepid voter enthusiasm is likely a result of this election being New York’s second primary of the summer – the first was in June – as well as the fact that many races aren’t competitive, Oxley said.

Still, Tuesday’s election, which was set this spring amid a lengthy legal battle over the state’s redistricting lines that ended in May, has some intrigue. Tuesday’s contests include two Democratic primaries for U.S. Congressional seats and a special election to fill the Congressional seat from which Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, a Democrat, resigned in May after being appointed to his current role.

Tuesday’s election also technically features a Republican primary race in the new 44th State Senate District between state Sens. James Tedisco and Daphne Jordan, but Jordan announced the suspension of her campaign in June.

The race to fill Delgado’s seat is receiving the most national attention of the lot because it is a rare contest between a Democrat and Republican ahead of November’s midterm elections. Many political spectators are watching the race between Marcus Molinaro and Pat Ryan as a bellwether of the national political climate, but Oxley said that may be misguided.

“These special elections sometimes are predictive of what could happen in November, but not always,” Oxley said. “If there are issues that seem to be driving that contest that we know are also at play nationally, then I think you can read some national lessons for November from the race. But if it seems to be much more focused on some idiosyncratic or local issues, then I think you can’t draw any national lessons.”

Molinaro, who has served as the Dutchess County Executive for nearly a decade, has campaigned on Republican party talking points, such as high inflation and gas prices, and he appeared with U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, the U.S. House of Representatives’ third-ranking Republican, this week in Canajoharie.

Pat Ryan, the Ulster County Executive since winning office in 2019, has tried to make abortion an issue following the Supreme Court of the United States’ Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.

Because the race is a special election, all voters can cast ballots, regardless of party affiliation.

Delgado won in New York’s current 19th Congressional District, which includes all of Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster counties, and parts of Broome, Dutchess, Montgomery, and Rensselaer counties, in 2018 and 2020, but previously the seat had been in Republican control since 2011.

Tuesday’s winner will only hold the seat for about four months, serving out the balance of Delgado’s planned term.

“Whoever wins, their side will talk about what that tells us going into November, and whoever loses, their side will say, ‘oh, this was just one election that really doesn’t tell us anything about what’s going to happen in November.’ The truth is somewhere in the middle,” Greenberg said.

The 21st Congressional District – which includes Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Montgomery, St. Lawrence, Schoharie, Warren and Washington counties, as well as parts of Jefferson, Otsego and Rensselaer counties – features a fairly competitive Democratic primary between two young Matts: Castelli and Putorti. Castelli, of Glens Falls, is a former CIA officer and director for Counterterrorism at the National Security Council, serving in both the Obama and Trump White Houses. Putorti, of Whitehall, is an openly gay lawyer who went to Boston College, Oxford University and Fordham Law School.

Putorti and Castelli have spent a lot of their energy campaigning against Stefanik, whom Tuesday’s winner will have to face in a general election in a district that pollsters say favors Republicans.

“Whichever Democrat comes out of Tuesday victorious will be looking for some momentum to try and make a run at it, but they certainly have an uphill climb in that district,” Greenberg said.

Rep. Paul Tonko, who has been serving in Congress since 2009, is facing a Democratic primary challenger for the first time since his first Congressional race in 2008. And even though Tonko’s hometown of Amsterdam has been cut out of the new 20th Congressional District, which now includes Albany, Saratoga and Schenectady Counties, as well as part of Rensselaer County, pollsters don’t expect Tonko to have trouble against Rostislav Rar, a 32-year-old immigration attorney.

“Does (Tonko) have a challenger?” Greenberg said. “I didn’t realize there was somebody on the ballot.”

Low turnout favors incumbents like Tonko, Oxley said.

The 44th State Senate District Republican primary was momentarily heated between Jordan and Tedisco after Tedisco declared in May that he’d be running in the district — which does not include his hometown of Glenville — instead of in the State Senate’s 46th District, where he would have had to take on Democratic Sen. Neil Breslin in a general election. The 44th District includes all of Saratoga County, as well as the city of Schenectady and the town of Niskayuna.

Barring something unforeseen, Tedisco, who has served on the state level since 1983, will face Democratic Schenectady County legislator Michelle Ostrelich in the general election.

After Tuesday, all campaigns and voters will be looking toward general elections.

“Traditionally, voters start to focus on elections post Labor Day,” Greenberg said. “So let’s see what comes out of Tuesday’s results, and we’ll then know what things are going to look like as we head into November and voters start to pay more attention.”

Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.

Categories: News, News

One Comment

I’ve been an engaged, active voter for about 40 years, and I can’t for the life of me figure out if I’m voting, or for who. The Schenectady County Board of Elections website is completely useless having last been updated in April or June. It’s not clear. And our local news outlets are no better.The civic responsibility of voting is important whether it’s a local Primary or the national general. But have fun with all that ARPA money, SC! Still hopeful that promised tree museum will get done!
sheesh.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Museum of Innovation and Science — $100,000In partnership with Proctors and the Galesi Group, the Museum of Innovation and Science received $100,000 for a New York Arboretum at the Mohawk Harbor site off Erie Boulevard in Schenectady.MiSci and Proctors applied for a total of $240,000 in state funding for the tree museum on the old Alco site, which is being developed by the Galesi Group with housing, hotels, office and retail, a harbor and one of the state’s first commercial casinos.The $1.2 million arboretum would include as many as 450 trees of a wide variety of species on the 60-acre brownfield property. The project is expected to attract 20,000 additional visitors and 6,000 students.dailygazette.com/2015/12/10/capital-region-mohawk-valley-lose-cuomos-hunger-ga/

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