By Felipe De La Hoz
You may have heard that there’s early voting for “the primary” underway, with election day itself happening next Tuesday, June 28. What you might not have been aware of is that this is actually “a primary,” as this year we get the pleasure of two of them before expected state and federal general elections this November.
Confused? Many voters are. (Here is a good breakdown of who is running and when and how to vote.) This is, obviously, not the typical state of affairs, and is instead the outcome of the chaotic redistricting process the state has undergone over the last several months, as we’ve detailed previously. To quickly recap, after the doomed-to-fail independent redistricting commission created by referendum in 2014 predictably could not come to consensus on new electoral maps following the 2020 Census (who would have thought that equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans in the current hyper-polarized environment wouldn’t be able to agree on lines that would determine the allocation of power in New York for a decade?), the Democrat-dominated State Legislature drew its own.
By almost every measure, these were drawn with a clear focus on strengthening Democratic majorities, and were challenged in court. A state judge quickly agreed with the plaintiffs and threw out the maps, a decision ultimately backed by the state’s highest court. Here’s the catch: the rulings only applied to the State Senate and the U.S. Congress, not statewide offices like governor and, bizarrely, not to the State Assembly, for the simple reason that no one had specifically sued against the Assembly maps, even if they were the product of the same constitutionally flawed process as the ones that were nixed. Some New Yorkers then also sued to throw out the assembly maps, but a decision there hasn’t been made in time to postpone the primary.
That leaves us with primaries for governor, lieutenant governor, assembly, and judgeships happening next week, while primaries for the U.S. House and State Senate are happening on August 23. Early voting runs through June 26, this Sunday, and you can find either your early voting or election day voting poll site here (bearing in mind that they might not be the same). Turnout so far seems low, which is of course a risk of having two separate primaries, plus early voting that starts during a holiday weekend.
All eyes on the race for governor
The big-ticket item is of course the governor’s race, where Gov. Kathy Hochul will have her chance to win a full term after taking over following Andrew Cuomo’s resignation last year. This would also make her the first woman to be elected to the office in the state’s history, a historic achievement that she’s been keen to play up. Still, no one can claim that the governor has rested on her historic laurels; she’s acted fast on issues like enacting new gun legislation in the wake of recent mass shootings, while making some significant blunders like a pledge of a combined $850 million in state funds for the new Buffalo Bills stadium.
All signs point to her primary victory, triumphing over moderate Rep. Tom Suozzi, who’s running primarily as a pragmatist focused on crime and taxes, and progressive Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a perennial candidate who is championing left politics causes like the Good Cause Eviction bill in the legislature. On the Republican side, the likeliest victor is Rep. Lee Zeldin, who would have a very steep path to victory in November; the GOP nominee would not only be running in a state in which registered Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans, but as a supporter of former President Trump’s false claims of election fraud, which are unlikely to prove very popular here.
If Hochul gets her full term, an immediate priority will no doubt be housing affordability, a longtime concern across the state and in NYC specifically, which has reached crisis levels in the past several months. Market rate rents have bounced up from pandemic slumps and kept soaring as much as a third over median asking rents this same time last year, reaching historic highs. This week, the city’s Rent Guidelines Board also voted to allow hikes of 3.25 percent for one-year leases and 5 percent for two year leases in the city’s stock of over one million rent-stabilized apartments, the highest increase in about a decade.
Crime and affordable housing
While crime keeps topping lists of concerns among voters, housing costs are quickly climbing to be an existential threat to millions of renters at a time. Hochul has proposed solutions including a revamp of the tax incentive for affordable housing construction and state inducements to build in transit-rich areas, but it’s clear that this is a problem that will require much more immediate and aggressive intervention. Expect that to become a plank of the general election campaign.
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