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EDITORIAL: The more the merrier in New York's primaries

If ever New York needed a horse race, it's this year - and we don't mean the equestrian kind. In choosing the next state leaders, voters deserve open contests and full campaign-trail debates. As the two major parties gather for their conventions this week and next, they can ensure this occurs.

County party officials, who are the conventions' voters, should bolster competition by placing every serious candidate on the ballot. There are now four announced Republican gubernatorial candidates, and five Democrats vying for attorney general. Normally, candidates must win 25 percent or more of the vote. That makes the process vulnerable to the sort of Republican and Democratic deal-making that voters are repudiating around the country.

Two further reforms would make elections more competitive in New York: nonpartisan redistricting and rewriting election laws. The current impenetrable set of rules serves to eliminate many challengers.

Unpredictable circumstances led to this state being run by people who were appointed, not elected. The governor and comptroller never had to lay out platforms or swear to campaign promises. It's time now for competitive races to fully appraise the candidates for these jobs and others.

Primary elections are in the parties' best interest, because they allow the strongest candidates to emerge. As scandal-scarred as Albany has become, it would be particularly abhorrent to watch potential governors promote their favored candidates for the watchdog posts of attorney general and comptroller.

Open up the process, and may the best qualified win. hN