By tradition and habit, we might be tempted to call 2013 an "off year."
The high-drama, high-turnout national and state elections are shrinking fast in the rearview mirror, and the political calendar for the coming year offers strictly regional elections.
But consider the last time we reached this point in the election cycle. Low turnout and an anti-incumbent mood gave way to some very big and very relevant upsets at the November polls.
In Nassau and Westchester counties, and New Jersey in 2009, Republican challengers ended up unseating Democratic incumbents for top executive posts. In New York City, a mayor elected on the GOP line traveled a rougher road to a third term than many people expected.
No, to dismiss these races as part of an "off year" threatens to be off the mark.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, Comptroller George Maragos and the county's GOP majority look to protect the power domains they captured last time out. Mangano, though battered by fiscal problems, informally began his re-election effort months ago.
Advised by his upstate consultant and his party's officials, Team Mangano has pre-emptively accused all critics -- from county Democrats to state fiscal monitors -- of wanting only to prod him to raise taxes against his will.
The man Mangano beat, Democrat Thomas Suozzi, has said he does not seek a rematch. Even so, politicos in both major parties have said privately for months that they don't believe him, and rumors of a "draft" scenario linger. So far, only businessman Adam Haber from Roslyn openly moves toward challenging Mangano from the Democratic side.
In Westchester, Rob Astorino, who defeated three-term executive Andrew Spano in 2009, has developed a following in the state GOP. If re-elected, Astorino could become the party's 2014 candidate for governor.
New York City is sure to draw the most attention as Michael Bloomberg prepares to depart at the end of 2013 after 12 years as mayor. This marks the first time since 2001 that the top slot at City Hall comes open because of term limits.
Former comptroller William Thompson got 46 percent of the vote four years ago against Bloomberg's 51 percent -- even as Bloomberg outspent Democrat Thompson by $102 million to $9 million. Thompson says he's running again, while the field of potential contenders looks crowded.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie faces his first election since defeating incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine four years ago. The field of opponents there has begun to narrow with well-known Newark Mayor Corey Booker saying he won't run against Christie.
Election calendars also influence agendas between campaign years.
When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivers his annual State of the State address in two weeks, it will mark the halfway point of his elected term. Given that fact, he'll want to boast of progress and paint a less dire picture of the state than he did upon taking over two years ago.
In Washington, the latest elections gave fresh life to the partisan status quo in Congress and the White House. So the posturing over taxes and deficits picks up along the same lines that it left off, except with the so-called fiscal cliff deadline fast approaching.
Given all that, the very concept of an "off year" in today's election cycle may be outdated.