The New York State Executive Mansion in Albany, the official...

The New York State Executive Mansion in Albany, the official home of the governor, on Jan. 17. Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

ALBANY — The election results Tuesday made clear the battle raging within the Democrat Party in New York between new-style liberals and moderates, prodding a reassessment about New York’s 2022 statewide contests.

And it has sparked bold GOP assertions about its chances next year.

Democrats had enjoyed a "blue wave" over the last two election cycles. Coinciding with Donald Trump’s run in the White House, Democrats in New York not only won veto-proof control of the State Legislature, but also scored victories in local offices across New York.

In some instances, new, younger and more progressive Democrats ousted old-school moderates in primaries. On Long Island, Democrats became a majority of the state legislative delegation for the first time.

That win streak came to a halt Tuesday.

Republicans won the three major races on Long Island, including defeating Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat. They also made gains in the Nassau and Suffolk county legislatures.

They didn’t win the Westchester county executive race, but did make legislative gains there. Republican state chairman Nick Langworthy called it the GOP’s best election night in years.

Further, in the most-watched upstate contest, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown appears to have rallied to win reelection on a write-in campaign, defeating India Walton, a democratic socialist who had shocked Brown in a June primary. Brown’s win isn’t official because it will take time to count ballots; however, Walton has conceded she is unlikely to prevail.

Walton had the backing of many liberal Democratic leaders, such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx/Queens). But state party leaders, including Gov. Kathy Hochul of Buffalo, declined to endorse her.

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), one of Brown’s vocal backers among moderates, said election night showed the consequences of the party moving too far left.

"I support many of the goals our far-left friends support, but I don’t support the ideas or the scorched-earth tactics," Suozzi, who is mulling a run for governor, told reporters in a news conference Thursday. For example, he said messages such as "Defund the police" and "Medicare for all" aren’t backed by all Democrats.

"We have to stand up to the far left because that kind of message being delivered by that wing is destroying the party," Suozzi said.

The overriding factor Tuesday, many agreed, was the national political climate and trends. Democrat President Joe Biden has hit choppy waters with his agenda. Plus, recent political history shows the party in charge usually suffers blowback losses immediately after taking the White House.

Democrats saw losses in 2009-10, after Barack Obama won election in 2008. Republicans suffered losses every year Trump, elected in 2016, was in office.

"We had seen a Trump response really bolster Democrats in New York," said Luke Perry, a Utica College political scientist. Now, he believes "we’re coming to a period of that blue wave maybe cresting."

Though the blue wave helped grow the Democratic Party in New York, an expanded party also exposes more of the differences of its members, Perry said — upstate-downstate, urban-suburban, progressive-moderate.

Tuesday’s results were mostly about "politics being nationalized," said Doug Muzzio, a Baruch College political scientist, adding that pushback against Biden hurt suburban Democrats.

"It was nationalized on Long Island. It was nationalized in New Jersey," Muzzio said, referring to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, narrowly avoiding an upset.

Separately, in the Buffalo election and New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary, from which Eric Adams emerged the victor, voters backed moderate candidates over more progressive and far-left ones, Muzzio noted.

"It seemed to be a reaction to the left," he said.

Looking ahead to next year’s governor’s race, Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James are, so far, the two announced candidates for the Democratic nomination. Besides Suozzi, others pondering a run include New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Hochul is the most moderate candidate officially in the race, Muzzio said, and Tuesday’s results could buffer her backers — those who say Democrats risk losing if they back a too-far-left candidate.

But others point out Democrats hold a better than 2-1 advantage over Republicans in enrollment, and that the state’s base of political power still rests in New York City.

"So I don’t think they need to moderate too much," Perry said. "New York is still a solidly Democratic state and the winner of the Democratic primary would be the favorite, but there are crosscurrents."

Republicans aren’t moderating their predictions based on Tuesday’s results, even though they haven’t won a statewide contest since 2002.

"This is a reset for the New York state governor’s race next year," Langworthy said. Standing in front of the State Capitol on Wednesday, he said: "Next year, we’re going to take that building and elect a Republican governor."

The GOP candidates include Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Of the Democratic candidates, Langworthy said: "They will all run to the [political] left. They will not learn the lesson here."

He added the state’s new bail law, adopted in 2019 — ending cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies — was a factor this year and will be next.

Jay Jacobs, the Democratic state chairman, said it was a wake-up call and a "cautionary message to the far left in our party."

"I call it the awakening of the moderate Democrat … They are awake and they are ready for a fight and they don’t want the party to go too far left," said Jacobs, who also serves as Nassau County Democratic chairman. He had been heavily criticized by progressives for declining to endorse Walton after she won the Buffalo primary.

Jacobs earlier had endorsed Hochul — hoping it would discourage others from challenging New York’s first woman governor. But that didn’t work.

With a primary looming, he now said he will "push hard to ensure all candidates treat each in a positive way" instead of "trashing" one another and possibly helping Republicans.

But progressive Democrats saw a different message Tuesday. Some want Jacobs replaced.

Williams on Twitter said party leaders were "more worried about the status quo than embracing/supporting bold visions & candidates to excite the base."

State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D-Pelham) wrote the "takeaway from Democratic losses … isn’t to be more moderate. It’s to be more dynamic. To have a vision. To embrace the future. To be an actual leader and not a boring, dead fish."

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