NEW YORK — New Yorkers are picking their representatives in Congress, the state Legislature and the White House after a campaign season that unfolded amid the coronavirus pandemic and unrest over racial injustice.
Polls close at 9 p.m. Tuesday, but with a record number of votes cast by mail, the hottest races could take weeks to decide. There is no guarantee that leads held at the end of election night will stand up when absentee ballots are opened and counted days from now.
Voters had to wait more than a month to know the winners in some races in the state's June primary.
The weakened state of the Republican Party in the New York City metropolitan area, however, is setting up Democrats for some expected easy victories, including a pair of candidates who could make history as the first two openly gay Black men elected to Congress.
Democrats could also potentially gain a supermajority in the state Legislature. A victory like that wouldn't alter the balance of power in a state where Democrats already control the governor's office. It could, however, give legislators more leverage with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is now a monolithic force in state politics.
Here's a look at New York's most closely-watched races:
Republican U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin is trying to fend off a challenge on eastern Long Island from Democrat Nancy Goroff. Zeldin is seeking a fourth term. He praised President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic as "phenomenal" during a speech to the Republican National Convention. Goroff is a chemistry professor who took a leave from Stony Brook University to seek elective office for the first time.
Republican Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino and Democrat Jackie Gordon face off in a race to succeed U.S. Rep. Pete King, a popular Republican who is retiring. The contest on Long Island's South Shore is taking place in a district that has tilted Republican in the past, but King's departure has created an opening for the Democrats, who have poured money into Gordon's campaign.
Republican Nicole Malliotakis tries to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Max Rose, who is seeking his second term. The district is whiter and more conservative than the rest of New York City and went for Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton by 10 points in 2016. Rose is an Army combat veteran. Malliotakis has been a state Assembly member since 2011. She unsuccessfully challenged New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's reelection in 2017.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the prohibitive favorite in her first reelection bid. The New York City Democrat faces Republican John Cummings, a teacher and former police officer. Ocasio-Cortez has become one of the most well-known voices of the American left in her first term. Her district in parts of Queens and the Bronx was among those hit hardest by the coronavirus.
Democrat Ritchie Torres is poised to become one of the first openly gay Black men in Congress. Torres, a 32-year-old member of the New York City Council representing the Bronx, faces Republican Patrick Delices in one of the most heavily Democratic districts in the country. Torres, who identifies as Afro-Latino, would succeed U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano, who is retiring.
Democrat Jamaal Bowman is expected to cruise to victory after dispatching U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in the state's spring primary. Bowman faces Conservative Party candidate Patrick McManus, a retired firefighter, in a district that includes parts of the Bronx and New York City's Westchester County suburbs. There is no Republican candidate.
Democrat Mondaire Jones would join Torres as the other first openly gay Black man in Congress if he prevails over opponents including Republican Maureen McArdle Schulman and Conservative Party candidate Yehudis Gottesfeld. Jones is a 33-year-old attorney. The winner in the race will succeed U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, a Democrat retiring after more than three decades representing a district in Rockland and Westchester counties. ___
Democratic U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney faces Republican Chele Farley in a battleground district in New York's Hudson Valley. Farley moved to the district from New York City after an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate in 2018. Maloney is one of just a few dozen Democrats nationwide who represent congressional districts where a majority of voters favored Trump in 2016. He is seeking his fifth term.
Military veteran Kyle Van De Water, a Republican, tries to knock off Democratic U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, who is seeking a second term in a district stretching from New York City's northern suburbs to rural counties near Albany. Delgado is another rare Democrat representing a congressional district that voted for Trump in 2016. Van De Water, 40, has run on a pro-Trump platform. He has promised a stronger U.S. border, tax cuts and 2nd Amendment protections.
Former Republican U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney is in a rematch with U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, who ousted her from office in 2018 but is now seen as one of the more vulnerable Democrats in Congress. The district, which runs from Lake Ontario to the border with Northeastern Pennsylvania, was another one in New York that favored Trump in 2016. The first contest between the candidates two years ago took weeks to decide as absentee ballots were tabulated.
U.S. Rep. John Katko is also in a rematch, facing Democrat Dana Balter after defeating her in 2018. Katko seeks a fourth term in a central New York district that includes the city of Syracuse. Balter, 44, has worked as a community organizer and at a disability services non-profit but has not held public office. Democrats narrowly outnumber Republicans in the district.
In western New York, Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Jacobs faces a challenge from Democrat Nate McMurray, the same candidate he beat in a special election five months ago. Jacobs won a special election in June to serve out the remainder of the term of fellow Republican Chris Collins, who was convicted of insider trading. McMurray is an attorney and former town supervisor. He also challenged Collins and lost in 2018.