Progressive Challenger Holds Governor To 61 Percent

By John Celock

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) defeated his two primary challengers Tuesday night but one grabbed a third of the vote and Upstate counties.

Cuomo captured 61 percent of the vote in his bid to capture the Democratic nomination for a second term. Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout, who challenged Cuomo from the left, grabbed 35 percent, while comedian Randy Credico grabbed 3 percent. Cuomo is favored to easily defeat Republican Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, in the November election.

Teachout easily outpolled many predictions, which had predicted her finishing between 30 and 35 percent of votes case. The challenger, who originally opposed Cuomo at the Working Families Party convention, before seeking the Democratic nod, had gained media attention as she barnstormed the state on a platform stressing ethics reform, a ban on fracking and ending inequality.

Teachout had emerged as a Cuomo challenger in the spring during the Working Families Party convention, when progressives looked to challenge the one term governor for what they said were policies that were too conservative. While Cuomo grabbed the Working Families line, progressives then lined up behind Teachout in her primary challenge. Among the issues cited by progressives was Cuomo’s support for cutting corporate taxes in the state and ethics reform.

Cuomo had tried to block Teachout from the ballot, arguing that she did not meet the five year residency requirement under the state constitution. Among the evidence cited by Cuomo was Teachout holding a Vermont driver’s license to earlier this year, receiving mail in Vermont, citing Vermont on tax returns and keeping her hang glider in New Hampshire. Teachout argued that she used the Vermont address as a “mail drop since she changed apartments multiple times in New York and that she had made New York her home, including hosting dinner parties at apartments in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Teachout noted she drove primarily in Vermont and had amended her tax returns.

Cuomo got backing from New York’s political class and largely ignored Teachout on the campaign trail and did not mention his challenger’s name. The one term governor also declined to debate Teachout in the race.

Teachout easily captured multiple counties Upstate, including Tompkins, Cortland, Greene, Cayuga, Tioga and Hamilton. Teachout also polled ahead of Cuomo in Putnam, Dutchess and Orange Counties outside of New York City. In rural Otsego County, home of Cooperstown, Teachout grabbed 72 percent of the vote. Cuomo has been unpopular with Upstate voters after signing one of the strictest gun control laws in the country.

Teachout proved popular in the Southern Tier region along the Pennsylvania border, where she grabbed multiple counties. She lost Broome County by four points. Broome County and the Southern Tier is the home of the region of the state where fracking would most likely occur. Teachout and her running mate, Tim Wu, made a ban on fracking a centerpiece of their campaign, including campaigning in the Binghamton region.

Cuomo has not banned fracking in the state but has declined to endorse it citing a long awaited study he commissioned from the state Department of Health when he first took office in 2011. Fracking has remained controversial, with supporters saying that the gas extraction method would boost the Southern Tier economy, while opponents say it will contaminate groundwater for Upstate and New York City residents and harm agriculture in the rural region.

Cuomo easily captured Erie and Niagara Counties in Western New York, areas that he had lost in the 2010 general election to Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino (R). Cuomo has made the Western New York region a centerpiece of his campaign, including tapping former U.S. Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) as his new lieutenant governor running mate. Cuomo played up his economic development work for the region during his first term. Hochul defeated Wu in the lieutenant governor primary.