Gov. Kathy Hochul and Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, both centrists,...

Gov. Kathy Hochul and Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, both centrists, won the New York State Democratic primaries on June 28 by a wide margin. Credit: AP/Mary Altaffer

ALBANY — The resounding win by Gov. Kathy Hochul and other centrist Democrats in Tuesday’s primary appears to have brought the fractious party in New York together to face a common enemy with shared policy goals, according to voting results and interviews.

“Democratic primary results in New York largely indicate support for mainstream/centrist candidates over candidates with more progressive policy agendas,” Meena Bose, political science professor at Hofstra University, told Newsday. “This suggests that appeals from party leaders to vote for candidates who may have crossover party appeal and are more likely to win in the general election were persuasive, or that voters made similar assessments.”

In Tuesday’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, Hochul took more than 66% of the vote in a three-way race, a margin that surprised many of her supporters. She faced a more progressive opponent running to her left in New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who was endorsed by several groups including the Working Families Party and progressive leaders including activist and actor Cynthia Nixon. In the end, Williams received 19% of the vote.

Hochul’s other primary opponent was Rep. Tom Suozzi of Glen Cove, whom many political advisers believed would siphon moderate votes from Hochul. Suozzi attracted just under 13% of the vote, according to state Board of Elections unofficial results.

In addition, Hochul won in progressive bastions. She won the Bronx with 65% of the vote and 51% in Brooklyn, Williams’ home borough, She won Manhattan with 65% of the vote, Queens with 59% and more moderate Staten Island with 61%.

In the hard-fought primary for lieutenant governor, incumbent Antonio Delgado defeated two challengers. He won 57% of the vote against progressive Ana Maria Archila and the more center-left Diana Reyna. Delgado, a former Hudson Valley congressman, has been on the job only since May, when Hochul appointed him to replace Brian Benjamin.

In the Assembly Democratic primaries, most of the progressive candidates who were backed by the Working Families Party, progressive leaders such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or the Democratic Socialists of America lost to establishment-backed candidates in head-to-head contests, election records show.

Progressive challengers lost to incumbents and other candidates backed by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in the 68th and 70th Assembly districts in Manhattan, the 81st and 82nd districts in the Bronx and the 43rd District in Brooklyn.

In addition, eight veteran incumbents in the Assembly staved off challenges from candidates not specifically endorsed by progressive leaders or groups, the records show.

Experts say the political climate likely galvanized Democrats: The conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court this month struck down a New York State gun control law and the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal nationwide. Some fear that the high court also will target gay rights. Other events inspiring voters were the continuing threat of mass shootings, with one of them in Buffalo in May; and the congressional hearings into the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot by supporters of former President Donald Trump, who is expected to run again in 2024.

Looking to November, Democrats knew they would face a GOP nominee for governor who supports Trump's conservative agenda. In Tuesday’s primary, Republicans chose Rep. Lee Zeldin of Shirley, who had refused to certify Trump’s 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

Democrats have a 2-1 voter enrollment advantage in the state.

“The governor’s exceptionally strong showing in the primary as a moderate — across region, gender, geography and just about every other political category — puts her in a great position in the general to energize and unify Democrats of all stripes,” said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies. “The Supreme Court decisions on abortion and guns have electrified Democrats and many moderates, especially women.”

“Between Trump, abortion and guns, a relationship and positions that helped him in the primary, Zeldin may find a lot tougher going in the general [election] — especially if Hochul can hold this apparently New Democratic coalition together," Levy said.

This coalescing of Democrats is the result of several factors, agreed Bruce Gyory, a Democratic strategist who studies election results and trends. But he emphasized that this is “the coming together of Democrats against Trump … Democrats feel this is personal.”

Gerald Benjamin, retired distinguished professor political science at SUNY New Paltz, noted, "Even in a low-turnout context primary, left-movement politics is not yet a statewide phenomenon strong enough to challenge the entrenched political order."

The Working Families Party — even though its endorsed candidates won four primary races Tuesday — acknowledged that Tuesday’s results were disappointing. The WFP notes that Williams was heavily outspent by Hochul. Further, the party said the divided primary and other factors, including continued exhaustion from the COVID-19 pandemic, hurt progressive turnout.

“Despite massive crypto and real estate money tilting the playing field, our candidates worked tirelessly to amplify the needs of working New Yorkers, lifting up critical issues and policy solutions to address the crises facing New York — everything from public safety to housing to climate change,” the party stated.

Yet Tuesday’s primary should have favored insurgents because primaries traditionally attract low turnouts, Board of Elections records show.

For Hochul “to hit 60% in a three-way race is impressive,” Gyory said. “There are no discernible fissures or fracture points going forward.”

He noted many observers believed Delgado would be upset by progressive opponents, yet won easily.

In addition, Hochul won more than 82% of Erie County. Winning her home county wasn’t a surprise, but her margin of victory a month after a mass shooting in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo shows she drew not just suburban Democrats, but inner-city progressive voters, Gyory said.

He said she performed better than former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo when he was challenged from the left in Democratic primaries. Part of that was Hochul’s success in the Hudson Valley, a growing progressive stronghold.

Republicans believe there was an additional motivation for Democrats to come together.

“The left wing went too far,” said Assemb. Andy Goodell (R-Jamestown), who leads the Republican Assembly floor debates and holds the second highest post in the minority conference. He said there is a more immediate reason Democrats have come together.

“Kaminsky,” he said.

He referred to the upset loss by state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) in 2021 when the former federal prosecutor ran for Nassau County district attorney. Republican Anne Donnelly made a top issue of the 2019 law pushed by progressive Democrats that ended cash bail for misdemeanors and most violent felonies.

Democrats say that law is intended to prevent suspects who can't afford bail from languishing in jail for weeks or months. Republicans have argued it sets dangerous criminals free.

Goodell noted that in the same 2021 election, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran blamed her upset loss on the Democrats’ bail law, in which she had no role.

Goodell said the Democrats’ progressive wing is now seen as “anti-police” and soft on crime, just as increases in crime is a top election issue.

Whatever the reason, Democrats for now are united.

“Sometimes the times and circumstances in peoples’ lives tend to move an electorate,” said state Democratic Committee chairman Jay Jacobs. “You saw and you heard from the Working Families Party and the Democratic Socialists of America a lot of chest-thumping and excitement over the great number of victims they would claim, yet they have been pretty quiet.”

“Democracy means majority rule and then you move forward,” Jacobs said. “So let’s coalesce behind that and we will be able to move a progressive agenda, but in a moderate fashion that is acceptable to voters. Everyone needs to come together because the threat on the Republican side is far too serious to be squabbling among ourselves.”

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