Even in local elections, the push-and-shove of state government can play an influential if indirect role.
State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman suddenly shares a bit of the glare of the New York City mayoral race. His elected job puts him in federal court defending a state law that caps individual contributions to independent political groups, or PACs, at $150,000 per year.
The cap was challenged by supporters of Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota, who cite the famous 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case removing curbs on "super-PAC" participation in election campaigns. The New York Progress and Protection PAC, which is pressing to void the state law before U.S. District Court Judge Paul Crotty, has support from Shaun McCutcheon, a well-heeled GOP donor from Alabama.
The rules differ by state. In Missouri, the sky's the limit on individual and corporate contributions; in Arizona, it's $2,820 per calendar year to candidates and committees from individuals, and corporate donations are barred. In New York, where campaign finance is a perennial issue, corporate donations are limited to $5,000 per year.
So Lhota, seeking traction against front-running Democrat Bill de Blasio, could get a boost depending if Democrat Schneiderman succeeds or fails in court.
In Nassau County, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's appointment of Jon Kaiman to chair the Nassau Interim Finance Authority was viewed by partisan operatives on both sides as potentially meaningful to the county executive race between incumbent Edward Mangano and his predecessor Thomas Suozzi.
The state created NIFA in 2000 when George Pataki was governor as county finances verged on collapse. The board saw fit in 2011 to declare a "control period" again. That was under Kaiman predecessor Ronald Stack -- whose recent ouster by Cuomo drew fire from the county executive's harshest critics, including NIFA member George Marlin. Whether and how all this indirectly affects turnout or votes remains to be seen.
Twenty years ago, says ex-New York City Mayor David Dinkins, a surprise action in Albany contributed to his close loss to Rudy Giuliani. As the 86-year-old Dinkins recalls in his new memoir, "A Mayor's Life," state lawmakers authorized a Staten Island referendum on a possible secession for the 1993 ballot, which then-Gov. Mario Cuomo signed into law. Giuliani gained from that borough's energized turnout.