Polls have closed in New York, which on Thursday played host to several major challenges by upstart “resistance” Democrats seeking to unseat longstanding establishment incumbents.
Voters were deciding, among other things, whether to renominate two-term Gov. Andrew Cuomo, while also making their picks for lieutenant governor and attorney general.
The races — the last of a grueling and upset-filled national primary season — will have national reverberations and will serve not only as a referendum on President Trump, who has been heavily targeted, but as a potential thorn in his side. Initial results are expected later Thursday evening.
The victor in the state’s four-way attorney general race, for example, may soon see the president in court; New York has filed several lawsuits against his policies and his charitable foundation.
In the gubernatorial contest, “Sex and the City” co-star and far-left progressive Cynthia Nixon is hoping to defy the polls and best Cuomo, who was roundly mocked last month for saying America “was never that great” during remarks criticizing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
The race has featured bitter attacks, with Nixon calling Cuomo a “bully,” and Cuomo’s campaign dismissing her as “unhinged.”
Nixon has received the endorsement of the Working Families Party (WFP), an influential, progressive third party in New York. She’s seeking to join the handful of insurgent liberal candidates who have sent shockwaves through the Democratic political establishment by unseating party favorites ahead of November’s midterm elections. Prominent among these upstarts is New York’s own democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who stunned observers by defeating a longtime congressman, Joe Crowley, in the state’s federal primaries this summer.
However, several national progressive candidates who have run from the left — including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ son, Levi — have been trounced in key races in deeply liberal states, including New Hampshire and Hawaii.
Both Cuomo and Nixon have sought to make the election about Trump. “Together, we can show the entire country that in the era of Donald Trump, New Yorkers will come together and lead our nation forward,” Nixon wrote Wednesday evening in a final message to supporters.
Cuomo, for his part, has spent millions on ads to argue that he’s the most qualified candidate to push back against the White House. He has also touted liberal accomplishments such as gun control, free public college tuition and a higher minimum wage.
“We don’t just believe it — we live by it,” he told a rally in Buffalo on Tuesday.
But Nixon has hammered Cuomo for failing to address New York City’s beleaguered subways, and for not following through on pledges to address corruption.
Polls show Cuomo has a commanding lead, with the most recent survey, from Siena College, suggesting he was more than 40 percentage points ahead in the race’s final days. Nixon argues that recent upset victories should make anyone cautious about pollsters’ accuracy.
In an interview with The New York Times, Nixon said the state has “a younger, more progressive, more diverse electorate,” and predicted that “those are the people that are going to turn out for me.”
While he seldom mentions her name, Cuomo has taken her seriously as a political threat. Four years ago he largely ignored primary challenger Zephyr Teachout, refusing even to shake her hand, and lost a third of the vote. This year he’s spent millions on ads and, intentionally or not, moved to the left on issues such as legalizing marijuana, banning plastic bags, returning voting rights to former inmates and addressing conditions in New York City public housing.
Cuomo has also racked up endorsements from a wide assortment of people including Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and, on Wednesday, performer Nicki Minaj.
Nixon, meanwhile, is hoping several recent missteps by Cuomo and his campaign come back to bite him. For example, Cuomo claimed to have no knowledge of a party mailer that questioned Nixon’s support for Jewish people — despite Cuomo’s control of the party and a recent $2.5 million contribution to its campaign operations. Party Director Geoff Berman later said the mailer was a mistake, and Cuomo’s spokeswoman acknowledged that two former aides volunteering on the campaign were behind the piece.
The winner of the primary will face Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, an independent, in the November general election. It’s possible that no matter who wins, both Cuomo and Nixon could appear on the November ballot anyway, thanks to third-party nominations. New York state law allows candidates to run on multiple ballot lines.
Meanwhile, voters also had “resistance” candidates to choose from in New York’s primaries for lieutenant governor and attorney general.
The state attorney general race will determine which candidate will inherit several pending lawsuits filed by the state that challenge Trump’s policies and accuse his charitable foundation of breaking the law. All four candidates have vowed to cause problems for the White House if elected.
Candidates in the tightly contested contest include Fordham law professor Zephyr — who made a strong showing against Cuomo in 2014’s gubernatorial race and has positioned herself as an outsider, insurgent candidate — as well as New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and former Hillary Clinton adviser Leecia Eve.
Teachout has campaigned with Nixon against Cuomo, and has pledged to make fighting state corruption a priority. She said she’d use the “law as a sword, not just a shield” in cracking down on Trump.
Her former watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, sued the Trump administration, arguing that the president’s hospitality businesses violate part of the Constitution barring the president from accepting gifts and payments from foreign governments without Congress’ consent.
Teachout’s rivals were no friendlier to the administration. “Donald Trump is a clear and present danger,” Maloney said at a recent debate. “He is a crook, and a bigot, and he has a bullseye on New York.”
The current attorney general, Barbara Underwood, was appointed in May when Eric Schneiderman resigned after he was accused of physically abusing women. Underwood declined to run for election.
And in the race for lieutenant governor, Jumaane D. Williams is the resistance candidate of choice. Williams, who has reportedly faced significant financial troubles, was found guilty of obstructing an emergency vehicle after he blocked an ambulance at an immigrants’ rights rally last month, after prosecutors said he had acted “irrationally and unreasonably.”
Williams was impeding an ambulance carrying his friend, an immigrant rights activist who had been informed he would be detained, and then fainted. Williams was also booked for blocking traffic outside of Trump Tower in the wake of the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Cuomo has endorsed the incumbent, Kathy Hochul. Williams has Nixon’s backing.
Fox News’ Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Nicole Darrah and The Associated Press contributed to this report.