New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo won his state's Democratic primary for governor over actress Cynthia Nixon Thursday, following a closely watched campaign that typified the recent clashes between the party's establishment and liberal wings.
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Though a win by Cuomo, now vying for a third term leading the Empire State after being first elected in 2010, was widely expected, Nixon's combination of celebrity and progressive values forced the governor to wage a more earnest campaign that may have been expected by an incumbent in such a solidly Democratic state.
Cuomo will now face Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro in November's general election, a race in which he will be the overwhelming favorite. Molinaro ran unopposed in New York's Republican primary, landing him the opportunity to attempt to become the state's first GOP governor since 2006.
Attacked for his cozy relationships with New York's political elite and state capital insiders, Cuomo, whose father Mario Cuomo served as the state's governor for three terms himself, nevertheless dominated wide stretches of the upstate region and even large portions of New York City Thursday evening, where Nixon was expected to fare better with progressive voters.
Appealing to city residents, Nixon hammered Cuomo throughout the campaign over the decrepit state of the New York City subway system. The governor controls the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the body that oversees the city's public transportation.
Nixon further portrayed the governor, whose public service stretches back to his tenure in President Bill Clinton's Department of Housing and Urban Development, including nearly four years as secretary, as insufficiently liberal for today's Democratic Party. Such a strategy has been only intermittently successful during the 2018 election cycle, but most notably in New York in June, when 28-year-old Democratic-Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stunned Rep. Joe Crowley, the House of Representatives' fourth-ranking Democrat, in a stunner in the 14th Congressional District primary.
In an additional New York Democratic-Socialist upset, 27-year-old Julia Salazar, who faced multiple controversies over her background and education but was endorsed by Ocasio-Cortez, defeated incumbent state Sen. Martin Dilan Thursday night.
In the gubernatorial race, Cuomo was buoyed by an endorsement from the New York Times and an enormous campaign war chest. Nixon's campaign was quick to note Thursday that the governor shelled out upwards of $16 million since July while, conversely, Nixon was mostly backed by small donors. The support of the Times surprised some observers after the newspaper sat out of the 2014 Democratic primary. In its editorial, the Times acknowledged the problems with the subway and Albany corruption, but said that while Nixon's message "that she is not Andrew Cuomo… seem[ed] an appealing truth," it was not "enough" to garner its support.
Best known for her stint as Miranda on HBO's "Sex and the City," the Emmy-winning Nixon has long been politically active, particularly in matters of LGBTQ rights; Nixon identifies as bisexual and is married to a woman. Following long-standing rumors of her interest in pursuing office, the actress launched her campaign in March, providing Cuomo with the second serious primary challenge to his incumbency in as many cycles.
In 2014, Cuomo faced attorney Zephyr Teachout in the Democratic primary, a race similar to Thursday's in which Teachout attempted to unseat Cuomo from his left. Unsuccessful in the challenge and in a subsequent race for New York's 19th Congressional District seat in 2016, Teachout lost yet another election Thursday, falling short in the Democratic primary for state attorney general.
That contest went to New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, the Associated Press projected just after 10:30 p.m. ET. At the time the race was called, James held nearly 42 percent of the vote statewide to almost 31 percent for Teachout, and 24 percent for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of the state's 18th Congressional District.