ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Democratic primary served as a stinging rebuke to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo after a little-known law professor claimed a surprising 35 percent showing and complicated his path to re-election as well as his possible Presidential ambitions.
Zephyr Teachout’s concession speech struck a triumphant note, with the Fordham University law professor telling supporters in a Manhattan bar late Sept. 9 that the race’s 62-35 percent margin delivered a strong message to Cuomo.
“I will not be your next Governor,” she said. “But the Democrats of this state have been heard.”
Cuomo hosted no victory party, instead releasing a statement congratulating Teachout — the first time he had referred to her by name publicly — and looking forward to the November election, when he faces Republican Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive.
With $35 million in Cuomo’s campaign coffers, he appears well positioned for the matchup. Astorino had $2.4 million in his account, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Polls show Cuomo with a 2-1 lead
Political observers say they don’t expect Teachout’s strong showing to change that, but it leaves the Governor and his possible presidential ambitions in a weaker position going into what many had expected to be an easy re-election.
“I don’t see Astorino beating him but this has to hurt,” said Doug Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College. “It takes away some of his aura of invulnerability.”
Other lessons from the primary:
ELECTED UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY
Voters in both parties showed tolerance for lawmakers facing criminal charges, though one of three state Senators with future court dates was knocked off.
Sen. John Sampson of Brooklyn turned back challenges from Sean Henry, Elias Weir and Dell Smitherman. Sampson is accused of embezzling $440,000 when he was a court-appointed referee watching over escrow accounts for sales of foreclosed properties. He’s also accused of funneling funds into his failed campaign for Brooklyn District Attorney.
And Republican Sen. Tom Libous of Binghamton defeated political newcomer Denver Jones in the 52nd District. Libous pleaded not guilty this summer to a federal charge that he lied to the FBI about using his position to arrange a legal job and an inflated salary for his son.
Not so fortunate was Sen. Malcolm Smith, a former Democratic leader in the chamber whose 14-year run representing Queens ended amid allegations he schemed to bribe his way into the 2013 mayoral race. He was beaten by former City Councilman Leroy Comrie. Smith faces trial next year.
All three have pleaded not guilty.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS DON’T ALWAYS PAN OUT
Cuomo’s running mate, former Buffalo congresswoman Kathy Hochul, defeated Columbia University law professor Tim Wu 60 percent to 40 percent to win the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.
While few expected Teachout to crack 30 percent, many Cuomo critics had hoped Wu might squeak past Hochul. He managed to claim a bigger share of the vote than Teachout, but Hochul won big support from western New York.
RENEGADES RALLY, BUT WILL THEY COME HOME?
Sen. Jeff Klein and Sen. Tony Avella, members of the Independent Democratic Conference led by Klein, defeated their respective challengers, Oliver Koppell and John Liu. The five-member bloc allied with Republicans to control the Senate, but Klein vowed to work out a return to the Democratic fold under the threat of a primary challenge.
The victories of Klein and Avella mean Democrats will have to work with Klein, Avella and their fellow renegades if they hope to form a majority during the next session.
Republican Majority Leader Sen. Dean Skelos, has said the deal between the IDC and the Democrats is a “short-term political deal designed to make threatened primaries go away.”
He also promised that after November’s elections, Republicans wouldn’t need the IDC’s support to control the Senate.
(By David Klepper. Associated Press writer George M. Walsh contributed to this report)