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Cuomo underperforms amid high turnout in Capital Region

Cuomo underperforms amid high turnout in Capital Region

Of the 13 counties Cynthia Nixon won, 10 were in the greater Capital Region.
Cuomo underperforms amid high turnout in Capital Region
Cynthia Nixon, a Democratic candidate for governor, appears in New York City on Thursday.
Photographer: New York Times

CAPITAL REGION — Of the 13 counties Democratic gubernatorial challenger Cynthia Nixon won in her 30-percentage point defeat to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, 10 of them were in the greater Capital Region.

While suffering great losses elsewhere in the state — Cuomo earned more votes than any Democratic primary candidate for governor in state history, with 975,874 of the more than 1.5 million votes cast — even in her home of New York City, Nixon was able to carry Schenectady, Saratoga, Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie, Albany, Greene, Columbia, Washington and Rensselaer counties.

The other counties Nixon won included Lewis County, where she edged out the incumbent by 44 of the 491 Democratic votes cast, as well as Ostego and Tompkins counties.

Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg attributed the outsize support for Nixon in the Capital Region to the attitudes of state workers toward Cuomo.

“Four years ago, CSEA and PEF [state worker unions] did not endorse the governor," Greenberg said. "This year they both did, but that does not mean that state workers had to follow their union, and it’s clear that a lot of state workers did not."

Turnout statewide increased at least 41 percent from the 2014 primary between Cuomo and Zephyr Teachout, with New York City Democrats coming out in droves, accounting for more than 60 percent of the total vote with absentee ballots yet to be counted. 

In Schenectady County, turnout was up 28 percent from 2014.

Saratoga County saw a 59-percent increase in turnout from 2014, with more than 10,000 Democrats coming out to the polls despite not having a high profile race in their primary. In the Republican primary, District Attorney Karen Heggen faced defense attorney Gerard Amedio. Heggen won.

Greenberg attributed the surge in primary turnout to three factors: Trump resentment among Democrats; an increase in coverage for the gubernatorial race with Nixon's name recognition; and the hotly contested Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) primaries.

Overall, Greenberg was satisfied with how the polling held up, and with the turnout level. 

“Polls are a snapshot in time, primary polls are harder than general election polls given very low turnout, and we’re very happy with how the polls held up. Certainly in the governor’s race, we nailed it," Greenberg said. "Certainly as a citizen of this state, I’m ecstatic about the turnout. Four years ago it was 11, now it’s at least 28 percent when all of the paper votes come in."

In the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, incumbent Kathy Hochul edged out Nixon's ticket partner, New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, in every county Nixon won except for Columbia County.

For several hours on election night, Williams was leading Hochul statewide by as much as 5 percentage points, which could have led to the possibility of a split ticket, until Hochul pulled ahead late in the night and secured the renomination.

In the Democratic primary race for attorney general, Teachout won the majority of the greater Capital Region counties, with the exception of Fulton and Montgomery counties. 

Teachout performed well upstate, winning most of the counties east of Lake Ontario, with Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney carrying much of central and western New York. Neither, however, were any match for James, who cleaned up downstate with a comfortable 136,648 vote lead over Teachout and Maloney thanks to strong support in the highly populated boroughs of New York City.

For her part, James, who often shortens her first name from Letitia to Tish, lived in Schenectady part-time when the Assembly was in session during her tenure there, and said she plans to move back should she win the general election for AG in November. 

James told The New York Times that Schenectady was her favorite upstate town

James could not be reached for comment, but Schenectady councilwoman and real estate agent Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas said that James, the current New York City public advocate, could find a nice place in the city. 

“There are some great neighborhoods in Schenectady," Zalewski-Wildzunas said. "You have the Stockade and the GE Plot, as well as anything along Central Park or on upper Union Street. I would love to see her move up here. I think it would be great for us in Schenectady.”

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Jake Lahut at jlahut@dailygazette.net or @JakeLahut on Twitter.

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