We know the results of the (second) primary election can be a little confusing, so we called up our trusted Civics reporter Felipe De La Hoz for help answering some of our most pressing questions.
Epicenter: Remind me, exactly who got to vote in this election? And for who/what offices?
Felipe: Registered Democratic and Republican voters had the opportunity to vote in primary elections for both the U.S. House and the State Senate (in New York, primaries are not open, which means that you have to be registered as a member of a party to vote in its primary elections). Functionally, this means U.S. citizens over 18 years old; unlike other states, since last year people convicted of felonies who are no longer in prison have their voting rights automatically restored.
While some people may have heard about noncitizen voting coming to New York, that did not apply here for a few reasons, the main one being that this provision is a municipal law applying to municipal offices like City Council and mayor, not to any state or federal offices. Even for local elections, that provision is far from a done deal ahead of its supposed implementation next year, as a judge in Staten Island has thrown out the law in response to a lawsuit supported by Republican elected officials. The city is appealing.
Of the people that could vote, it doesn’t seem like that many really did, with this second primary being on track to have even lower turnout than the abysmally low turnout of the June primary. Partly to blame is no doubt the very fact that there even were two primaries, the result of a chaotic redistricting process this year. All in all, it seems like not much more than 10 percent of registered voters will have gone to the polls this week.
The winners of each party’s primaries will now face off against each other in November’s general election. There were also a couple of special elections for Congress, which are nonpartisan and in which candidates run to fill a vacant seat, and to serve out the remainder of the current term (more on those below).
Epicenter: Who won?
Felipe: On the State Senate side, all of the incumbents won their primary, and progressives notched a few notable victories. The AOC-backed Kristen González routed the establishment-backed former City Council member Elizabeth Crowley in the race to represent a newly created district that encompasses parts of western Queens, Brooklyn, and eastern Manhattan. A slate of moderate candidates that Mayor Eric Adams had backed as challengers to more progressive candidates were also predictably trounced.
The real attention was on the congressional side. A handful of primaries were very closely watched, probably none more so than for the new 10th congressional district, stretching from southern Manhattan to parts of western Brooklyn. The race featured at least four candidates who had a credible shot at victory, including current Rep. Mondaire Jones, who currently represents an area north of NYC but decided to throw his hat in the ring for this new district; current State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou; current City Council member Carlina Rivera; and former federal prosecutor and counsel for the first Trump impeachment Daniel Goldman.
The breadth of experience among the candidates made it an intriguing race, and it was ultimately Goldman who took the victory, largely on the strength of having spent $4 million of his own money (he’s an heir to the Levi Strauss & Co. fortune) to blanket the district and the airwaves with ads, an invaluable assistance in a low-turnout race. He was also helped along by the rather crucial endorsement of The New York Times (full disclosure, I sit on the separate editorial board of the New York Daily News, which endorsed candidate Elizabeth Holtzman in this race).
Jones, Niou, and River are all self-described proud progressives, and while they do have some political differences, they are ideologically relatively aligned. Goldman’s win has prompted some hand-wringing and recriminations about the fact that all three stayed in the race until the end, instead of consolidating. Between the three of them, they got almost 60 percent of the vote, more than twice Goldman’s share. While some of their voters would have just voted for Goldman in the absence of their preferred candidate, it’s very likely that enough would have voted for whichever one remained if two consolidated behind and endorsed one remaining standard-bearer.
In the 12th district, where the redistricting process spanned the whole width of Manhattan, the very senior Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler faced off against each other, as well as perennial Maloney challenger Suraj Patel. While the race was expected to be very close, it ended up in a surprising blowout in favor of Nadler, who crushed Maloney and Patel by over a 30-point margin each. This may have also had something to do with the longtime congressman getting the coveted nod from the Times, which rounded out its endorsements by also lending support to Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in the 16th congressional district, which is mostly up north in Westchester. The latter handily defeated his own opponent, State Senator Alessandra Biaggi.
Epicenter: The New York Times endorsed three white guys in three congressional races that were remarkably diverse pools of candidates. Thoughts on why the editorial board did this?
Felipe: It certainly raised some eyebrows. Newspaper endorsements move the needle, especially the Times’, and especially in low-turnout races that typically draw more committed and high-information voters. Constitutionally, the board has often preferred more moderate candidates, but as an article co-published by the Intercept and the American Prospect points out, one of their cardinal rules has long been to not back candidates who are self-funding their own campaigns, a rule that Goldman obviously violated.
The report notes that the family of Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger has several ties to Goldman’s family and that Sulzberger did not recuse himself from the endorsement process (while newsroom operations are handled by editors, the publisher has the ultimate say on editorial board matters). This all stops short of indicating that Sulzberger specifically overruled the editorial board or anything like that, but it notes that some board members were frustrated with the process.
Epicenter: What does this all tell us about the midterms?
Felipe: The race that might tell us the most about the midterms is perhaps one of the special elections that also took place Tuesday. Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan defeated Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro in the swing 19th congressional district, encompassing parts of the Catskills and the Hudson Valley region, which was left vacant after former Rep. Antonio Delgado came on as the state’s lieutenant governor.
The district had flipped from Trump to Biden in the last election, but Ryan slightly outperformed Biden’s narrow 2-percent victory in 2020, in what was seen as a good sign for Democrats overall. He had focused his campaign largely on the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which is proving to be an effective organizing strategy for Democrats going into what were expected to be tough elections.
In the other special election, Republican Joe Sempolinski defeated his Democratic opponent in the 23rd congressional district by a much narrower margin than had been expected in the solidly red district. Since these were match-ups pitting candidates from the two major parties against each other, as opposed to intra-party primaries, they would seem to be a very good sign for Democrats, particularly as Democrats keep gaining ground in generic polls and winning bellwether elections.