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Foss: Blue wave hits New York, but what does it mean?

Foss: Blue wave hits New York, but what does it mean?

A persistent theme of the primary and general election was how little attention was paid to issues of specific concern to upstate
Foss: Blue wave hits New York, but what does it mean?
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Gov. Andrew Cuomo celebrate after winning their midterm election contests, in New York.
Photographer: KARSTEN MORAN/THE NEW YORK TIMES

A blue state just got bluer. 

I'm talking about New York, of course. 

On Tuesday voters elected one of the most progressive state governments in recent memory, turning control of the Senate over to the Democrats and handing Gov. Andrew Cuomo a resounding victory in his quest for a third term.  

Yet there were signs of discontent upstate, where Cuomo won just six of 50 counties. 

Given how well the state's Democratic Party fared on Election Day, this is a stunning rebuke. 

Some might argue that upstate is a more conservative part of the state, and Cuomo's poor showing reflects that. 

But the reality is more complicated. 

Counties that were more than happy to support Democratic candidates on Election Day, such as Schenectady and Rensselaer counties, rejected the governor out of hand. 

For Cuomo, the blue wave was largely confined to New York City and a handful of Democratic strongholds, such as Albany County. If nothing else, this reinforces the upstate-downstate divide and raises questions about what upstate can expect from four more years of the governor's leadership. 

My feeling: not much. 

A persistent theme of the primary and general election was how little attention was paid to issues of specific concern to upstate New York, and it's difficult to see that changing anytime soon. 

I expect Cuomo and the Democratic-controlled state Legislature to take up a host of issues -- progressive and otherwise -- that have traditionally stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. 

Among the bills that might finally turn into law are the Child Victims Act, which would make it easier for child victims of sexual assault to sue their abusers as adults, and the Reproductive Health Act, which would strengthen the state's abortion laws. 

Marijuana legalization, criminal justice reform, single-payer health care, voting reforms such as same-day registration and early voting -- these are some of the issues that will move front and center once Democrats control the Senate. 

I support many of these initiatives, and I'm excited to see legislators take them up. 

But there are a number of issues that matter deeply to upstate residents, and I doubt we'll see any movement or discussion of them at all under a Democratic Legislature and governor. 

We are not going to hear much about how Cuomo's pricey economic development efforts have failed to generate the jobs we were promised, or how the recovery in upstate New York has lagged behind much of the country. 

We are not going to hear much about our crumbling infrastructure, steady decline in population or lack of health care options in rural areas. We are not going to hear much about corruption and the need for ethics reform. 

If upstate voters were less enthused about Cuomo, it might have something to do with upstate's decline -- and the governor's failure to do anything about it, despite a whole host of projects aimed at revitalizing upstate New York.

There's no denying that giving Democrats control of the state Senate will mean big changes for New York. 

But in some of the areas that really matter, especially for those of us in upstate New York, the state won't change at all.  

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.                

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