So this was supposed to be the New York voter's autumn of discontent; the year that all incumbents would get tossed out on their collective rears and a massive number of reformers would march in and take over the Governor’s seat and both houses of the state legislature (and possibly even abolish one of them!) It seemed possible that the reform swell would take out many, many incumbents -- in both primary elections --where reform minded Democrats would take out ossified career senators -- and in the general election as well. Yet none of this materialized. Few primary contests ensued against incumbent State legislators, and no truly viable contests will be at the top of the ballot this year. This will drive down turnout by both parties – making the local races ones where the get-out-the-vote efforts will be the key to victory or defeat.
While nationwide there’s a strong anti-incumbent trend likely to turn one if not both houses of Congress over to the GOP – New York will prove to be a lot less productive for the GOP – except possibly in the State Senate, where it’s likely that the GOP will regain control. Here are my predictions for statewide and local races:
Governor: Carl Paladino probably never had much of a shot in the general election – but made things a lot worse for himself and his supporters by continuously creating a negative personal presence in the news for 3- weeks running. Had Rick Lazio or Steve Levy been the GOP candidate – it would have been much closer. Once a candidate’s character becomes the primary issue in a race – he/she is toast. Prediction: Cuomo wins 65%-35% over Paladino.
US Senate: No contests here -- both Chuck Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand will win handily. Schumer’s margin will be about 60%-40% over Jay Townsend (who?) and Gillibrand will win by 10 points over former Westchester Rep Joe DioGuardi, who’s campaign never really gained traction.
US Congress #18: 11-term Democratic incumbent Nita Lowey (who defeated Joe DioGuardi to take the seat in 1988) will win handily over Jim Russell and write-in candidate Cortes DeRussy.
US Congress #19: Two-term Democrat John Hall is in a tough race against Republican Nan Hayworth. Given the leanings of the district, this will be close, but I’m predicting a small margin win for Hayworth.
NYS Comptroller: This is the most interesting statewide race because you actually have a qualitative choice. To date most observers of New York State Government believe that the unelected incumbent Tom DiNapoli has been a competent holder of the office. But the Republican candidate, Harry Wilson, has ignited some bi-partisan passion for his candidacy. DiNapoli tags Wilson as a “Wall Street Wizard”, and in fact Wilson may be that. His most recent accomplishment was serving on the Obama Automobile restructuring task force – and was the primary driver (no pun intended) of the plan that salvaged and rejuvenated General Motors. Although there are severe weaknesses at the top of the statewide GOP ticket, I’m predicating that Wilson will eek out a win by about 2-3% over DiNapoli and net the only statewide win for Republicans this year.
NYS Attorney General: here you have no incumbent in the race – former State Senator Eric Schneiderman survived a 5-candidate Democratic primary for his party’s nomination. The GOP picked Staten Island DA, Dan Donovan. Donovan has been endorsed by Mayor Bloomberg and former Mayor Ed Koch. But given the weakness at the top of the ticket, there hasn’t been a groundswell for Donovan in this race – and the Cuomo coat-tails will carry the better-recognized Schneiderman to a 5% victory over Donovan.
NYS Senate # 37: In a fiercely contested race, 25-year Democratic incumbent Suzi Oppenheimer faces Republican political newcomer Bob Cohen. Cohen has gone after Oppenheimer’s long tenure in office, while Oppenheimer has gone starkly personal and negative with mailers and commercials that tag Cohen as a “slumlord” – allegations of which were refuted by the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee. All this shows that the Oppenheimer camp is deeply worried about this race. The Democratic registration outnumbers Republicans by 2:1 – but turnout will be key. This is pretty much a jump ball – particularly now with the New York Times’ endorsement of Cohen’s candidacy. Late polls indicate that undecideds and independents may be breaking for Cohen. As an aside, had former Larchmont Mayor Liz Feld run again this year, she would have likely defeated Oppenheimer. Feld, who would have had more name recognition than Cohen, chose not to make the race in part because she was disgusted at the GOP leadership role in the Pedro Espada fiasco.
NYS Senate #34: Democratic Senator (and Deputy Majority Leader) Jeff Klein is opposed by Republican civic activist Frank Vernuccio. Klein will win easily. Assuming Klein wins – he may be in line to be the new majority leader (if the Dems hold onto their majority) or most certainly will be the minority leader if the Dems lose their majority.
NYS Senate #35: two-term Democratic incumbent Andrea-Stewart Cousins will prevail with a 3% victory over former Yonkers City Councilman Liam McLaughlin.
NYS Senate #36: Democratic Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson is running against Robert Diamond. Hassell-Thompson will win handily.
NYS Senate #40: this district straddles northern Westchester and Putnam Counties. Another hard fought race that looks like a jump ball at this point – between the incendiary Republican Assemblyman Greg Ball and Democratic Westchester County Legislator Mike Kaplowitz. Given the weakness at the top of the GOP ticket and Kaplowitz’ center-right campaign, I’m predicting a small margin win by Kaplowitz.
NYS Assembly #87: Incumbent Democrat Gary Pretlow will breeze to victory over Independence Party candidate Sam Rivers.
NYS Assembly #88: Democratic incumbent Amy Paulin will easily defeat her Republican opponent, Rene Atayan.
NYS Assembly #89: Republican incumbent Bob Castelli attained the seat in a special election earlier this year when Adam Bradley left to become mayor of White Plains. In the February special election, Castelli prevailed over County Legislator Peter Harckham in a low-turnout race. In September Tom Roach, the White Plains Common Council President defeated Harrison’s Mark Jaffe in the Democratic primary for the right to take on Castelli. Although the voter registration favors Democrats in this district, Castelli’s moderate creds will carry him to a 5% victory over Roach.
NYS Assembly #90: Democratic incumbent Sandra Galef will easily defeat repeat GOP candidate Bill Gouldman.
NYS Assembly #91: Popular Democratic incumbent George Latimer will easily defeat Republican Bill Reed.
NYS Assembly #92: In an open-seat contest for the seat of defeated Attorney General candidate Richard Brodsky, long time Democratic County Legislator Tom Abinanti will easily win over Republican Thomas Bock.
NYS Assembly #93: a somewhat hotly contested race favors incumbent Democrat (former Republican) Mike Spano over GOP candidate Ramondelli.
So locally, with few exceptions, incumbency will once again be the rule.
David A. Singer is a former political consultant/campaign professional and political junkie currently toiling as a lawyer in Westchester and managing real estate and media investments.