Early voting begins Saturday for second of two state primaries
ALBANY — New York’s political calendar this summer is a fluky one, though it didn’t start out that way.
In what is expected to be confusing for at least some voters, the second of two primary elections will be held Aug. 23. Early voting for that affair — involving contested congressional and state Senate races — begins Saturday.
A June 28 primary for governor resulted in Gov. Kathy Hochul and Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-Long Island, emerging as the winners. They will face each other in the general election Nov. 8.
New York ended up with two separate primary elections after the state’s top court in April tossed out state Senate and congressional district lines that had been approved by Hochul and Democratic lawmakers. The court found the new lines handed an unfair advantage to Democrats due to gerrymandering of the districts. A special master was then assigned to craft lines that were not based on partisan considerations.
As the result of the new congressional lines, resulting in eight competitive districts for House seats, New York has become one of the states to watch nationally as the election season advances.
“New York has more competitive congressional districts than any other state in the nation, because we have much fairer congressional lines now, instead of the lines the Democrats tried to gerrymander the state with,” said John Faso, a former Republican congressman from Columbia County. Faso was one of the lawyers who framed the legal arguments that resulted in the Court of Appeals ruling the lines approved by Democrats were unconstitutional.
While Democrats are expected to maintain a majority of the state’s House seats, the New York delegation may not be as blue as it is now, with polling suggesting that GOP candidates have a shot at taking some of the districts Democrats won in 2020.
To retake the majority in the House of Representatives, Republicans, nationally, would need a net pickup of five seats. In midterm elections, it is not uncommon for the party occupying the White House to feel the heat from the electorate. If Republicans take control of the House, it would leave President Joe Biden and his agenda in a challenging position for the remaining two years of his current term.
Another battleground drawing attention is the suburban Long Island region, where three congressional seats won’t have an incumbent running. One is held by Zeldin. Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat who lost to Hochul in the Democratic primary for governor, is retiring from Congress. Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Democrat, is also retiring. Those moves guarantee there will be fresh faces in the state’s congressional delegation come January, noted Harvey Schantz, a political science professor at SUNY Plattsburgh.
There are several other primaries that have ignited intrigue, including the battle between Nick Langworthy, the state GOP chairman, and Carl Paladino, a Buffalo businessman who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010, seeking to be the Republican nominee for a Western New York congressional seat, Schantz said.
In the November general election, the party that ends up with 218 House seats will have the majority and determine who the Speaker of the House will be, the professor said. The New York delegation to Washington has had a majority of Democrats since 1964.
The state’s delegation now totals 27 members — 18 Democrats and seven Republicans, with two vacancies. Due to slow population growth, New York will lose one House seat come January.
Heading into the fall, “Joe Biden’s low approval number of about 40% suggests that the Republicans will win a substantial margin and House seats across the country,” Schantz said.
In Albany, Democrats now hold lopsided majorities in both the Senate and the Assembly.
But Faso said with inflation, taxes and crime very much on the minds of voters, along with fairer district lines carved by the special master, Republicans will likely take some statehouse seats now occupied by Democrats.
“The Democrats have no real counter to it because their policies have made inflation worse, they’ve made crime worse, and they’ve made the recovery from the pandemic worse,” Faso said.
Hochul and the state Democratic Party have hammered Zeldin for voting against the certification of voting results in Pennsylvania and Arizona, Those were among the states whose 2020 results were unsuccessfully contested by the Trump campaign.
“While he’s promoting the Big Lie and carrying water for Donald Trump, I’m fighting for New Yorkers,” Hochul tweeted Thursday.