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High turnout, high hopes
Is there an upset in the making on Long Island this primary day?
The early turnout is extremely high in the 18th Assembly District, where veteran Earlene Hooper faces a strong challenge from Taylor Raynor. By 3 p.m. Thursday, the votes cast in many precincts already exceed the total number of ballots cast in the 2016 primary, when Hooper defeated Carmen Pineyro of Freeport.
At the polling location in Coes Neck Park in Baldwin, for example, turnout has already more than doubled. In 2016, there were a total of 81 votes cast, but by 3 p.m. there were 175 ballots cast, according to Nassau County Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs.
Baldwin is considered Raynor territory as is Uniondale, where she grew up. At the California Avenue School precinct in Uniondale, there were 111 total votes two years ago, but 160 already by mid-afternoon; and 192 people already voted at the Uniondale Senior Center location, compared with 105 total in 2016.
Jacobs said a strong Democratic ground operation for Raynor was paying dividends and a large turnout favored the challenger. In 2016, a low turnout resulted in a total of 3,789 votes cast, with Hooper, the mercurial deputy speaker of the State Assembly, winning a 60 percent share.
The strong get-out-the-vote operation underway for Raynor by the Nassau Democrats includes the distribution of flyers near polling places that tout the county organization’s support of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo; his running mate, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul; and Letitia James for attorney general. With James trying to head off a strong suburban challenge by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of the Hudson Valley, a very large turnout in south and central Nassau could make a difference.
In New York City, however, it was grass roots groups like Indivisible, No IDC NY, and True Blue NY that were using social media to get out their message by pushing photo spreads of candidates challenging the incumbent Democrats who work with Republicans in Albany.
“Vote Progressive,” said the No IDC NY spread, posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
No IDC NY is a coalition turned campaign committee that was formed by activists protesting the Independent Democratic Conference, and which has raised more than $200,000. But online, its rallying cry went beyond the eight State Senate candidates to support gubernatorial hopeful Cynthia Nixon, her running mate Jumaane Williams, and Zephyr Teachout for attorney general. And at the bottom of its spread, with no photo, the No IDC NY ad also included senate candidate Blake Morris — who is running against Simcha Felder, the turncoat Democrat whose one vote, even without the IDC, gives Republicans the gavel.
The more things change . . .
On primary day, it’s worth looking back to 1966, when there weren’t any. But there was a movement gathering steam.
Both the Democratic and Republican parties included the notion of a statewide primary for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller in their respective platforms that year. On Sept. 13, 1966, Newsday’s editorial board applauded that as “a first-rate idea,” and wrote, “It at least gets rid of some of the wheeling and dealing in smoke-filled rooms that eventually results in the selection of candidates acceptable to the party leaders, whatever the voter may think . . . ”
More than a half century later, the back rooms of party bosses are still a problem.
Back in 1966, the board had one caveat about primaries. It worried about adding to the cost of running for office, noting one candidate for governor of Pennsylvania spent $1.4 million in that state’s primary. “If New York State isn’t careful,” the board wrote, “we may wind up with only millionaires able to afford the race for office.”
Clearly, the board didn’t know that the Citizens United decision would open the fundraising spigot. But it did anticipate the fallout.
“So if we are to have primary elections in New York,” the board declared, “we must also have laws that effectively regulate the amount of money that may be spent.”
Otherwise, primaries could freeze out “the poor and the middle-income” candidates, the board wrote, leaving millionaires as the only viable contenders and “subverting the democratic principle that merit rather than money ought to be the test of worth of an aspirant to public office.”
The first statewide primary was held four years later, in 1970, by Democrats. Party designees Arthur Goldberg and Basil Paterson defeated challengers Howard Samuels and Long Island’s Jerome Ambro for governor and lieutenant governor (and lost to GOP incumbents Nelson Rockefeller and Malcolm Wilson in November).
And we still haven’t solved the problem of money in politics.
Dances with dragons
Primary day puzzle
The answer to each question is the name of someone running for office this year. Many are from New York, some from the rest of the country. The last letter of each answer is the first letter of the next answer. For example:
Former general turned president (last name): Eisenhower
Former actor turned president (last name): Reagan
1. Long Island congressman running for his 14th term (last name): _ _ _ _
2. Florida Democrat would be state’s first black governor if he wins (last name): _ _ _ _ _ _
3. Republican nominee for governor in New York (last name): _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
4. Knocked off Rep. Joe Crowley, rising progressive star (last name): _ _ _ _ _ _- _ _ _ _ _ _
5. Democratic candidate for NY attorney general (first name): _ _ _ _ _ _
6. LI congresswoman running for her third term (last name): _ _ _ _
7. Democratic candidate for NY attorney general (last name): _ _ _
8. Progressive U.S. senator from Massachusetts (first name): _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
9. Incumbent NY lieutenant governor, running for re-election (last name): _ _ _ _ _ _
10. Democratic candidate for NY attorney general (first name): _ _ _ _ _ _ _
11. Current Governor of NY, running for third term (first name): _ _ _ _ _ _
12. Democratic challenger for lieutenant governor (last name): _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
13. Democratic candidate for attorney general (first name): _ _ _ _
14. Actress turned gubernatorial candidate (last name): _ _ _ _ _
Wednesday’s The Point incorrectly spelled Juan Vides’ last name. He is a candidate for the Assembly’s 20th District.