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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

In Democratic primary, few party members to have their say

Long Beach residents voting at Lindell Elementary School

Long Beach residents voting at Lindell Elementary School in Long Beach on Nov. 5, 2013. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Tuesday's Democratic primary contests for governor and lieutenant governor are expected to draw a thin band of party members to the polls as usual.

But the question of who and how many will show up creates suspense.

Well-known and well-funded, first-term Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo faces Zephyr Teachout, a little-known and little-funded New York City law professor making her first run for office, and Randy Credico, a comedian who drew less than 2 percent in the New York City mayoral primary last year.

The lieutenant governor's race has no incumbent. Former Rep. Kathy Hochul of the Buffalo area, who's Cuomo's pick to succeed his departing sidekick Robert Duffy, was expected to get a boost from Cuomo-Hochul robocalls by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Teachout ally Tim Wu, scholar and author of a 2006 book "Who Controls the Internet?" is challenging Hochul.

Observers see this primary as testing the degree and motivation of anti-Cuomo sentiment from his left within the party he heads.

Results from recent years offer a picture of what's typical:

In the 2010 Democratic primary, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was challenged by a New York City lawyer, Gail Goode, who despite no visible campaign apparatus drew 24 percent, or 145,491 of the 610,003 votes cast. Fewer than 12 percent of party registrants voted.

In 2006, when Attorney General Eliot Spitzer beat Nassau Executive Thomas Suozzi in the Democratic primary for governor, about 14 percent of enrolled Democrats, or 762,947, took part.

Seeking a first term, Spitzer beat Suozzi 82 to 18 percent. Also getting 18 percent on the same ballot: Jonathan Tasini against Clinton.

Four years ago, only Republicans had a gubernatorial primary. Carl Paladino beat the state party's preferred candidate, Rick Lazio, to face Cuomo. There were 479,684 votes in all, cast by 18 percent of registered Republicans.

Last year's incumbent-free New York City mayoral race was virtually decided in the Democratic primary won by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio -- yet only 23 percent turned out despite hundreds of candidate TV ads. Given that figure, author Mark Green, a Teachout backer, said he'd be surprised if more than 10 percent of registered state Democrats vote Tuesday.

Green, in 1986, won a big upset in a low-turnout Senate Democratic primary over Dutchess County Democrat John Dyson before GOP Sen. Alfonse D'Amato won the general election.

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