Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) defeated Republican opponent Marc Molinaro, besting the Dutchess County executive by a wide margin.

Karsten Moran / The New York Times

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) defeated Republican opponent Marc Molinaro, besting the Dutchess County executive by a wide margin.

November 7, 2018

Up and Down the Ballot, Democrats Run New York

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Democrats scored an electoral hat trick to take control of all three branches of the New York State Government. The party maintained the Governorship and Assembly majority and flipped several State Senate seats to gain control of the only branch evading their grasp since 2011.  

One man stood between Democrats and a complete trifecta going into election night. State Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) caucused with Republicans in the Senate, effectively flipping the Democrats’ one vote majority in favor of the GOP. 

Control of the Assembly has been a years-long source of frustration for New York Democrats, whose majority in the body was curtailed by an internal party revolt. In 2011, eight Senators formed the Independent Democratic Conference and combined with Republicans and Felder to form a majority coalition that lasted until last night. 

Governor

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) shellacked Republican opponent Marc Molinaro, besting the Dutchess County executive by a wide margin. The odds of a Molinaro governorship were predicted to be slim against the two-term incumbent, who won similarly comfortable victories in 2010 and 2014. 

The governor’s moves to the left during the campaign on issues like marijuana legalization could have been the tactics of a shrewd politician, and it remains to be seen whether a more progressive agenda is in the future for New Yorkers. 

Cuomo’s win matches his father Mario, who served three terms as governor in the 80s and 90s. As with many high-visibility democrats, speculation has swirled around a 2020 presidential bid, though Cuomo has vehemently denied any such ambitions. 

Attorney General 

Letitia “Tish” James will take office as the next New York Attorney General after a decisive win over Republican Keith Wofford and three third-party candidates. James, who currently serves as New York City’s Public Advocate, was the first black woman nominated by a major party to statewide office in New York and is now the first to win office. 

The post James was elected to fill was vacated after The New Yorker published sexual assault allegations from four women against former AG Eric Schneiderman in May, leading to his resignation. 

Schneiderman was an aggressive opponent of the Trump administration, though their first battle began years before the election, when Schneiderman sued Trump University for fraud. 

James made her opposition to the Trump administration clear in a statement following her primary victory speech in September.

“This campaign was never really about me or any of the candidates who ran … it was about the people, but mostly it was about that man in the White House who can’t go a day without threatening our fundamental rights,” James said, according to The New York Times. 

State Assembly 125th 

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton’s uncontested run in the 125th State Assembly district helped maintain a commanding Democratic majority in the legislative body, which has been under the party’s control since 1992. 

Lifton has been the 125th’s Assemblywoman for 15 years, representing an area spanning Ithaca and Cortland.

State Senate 58th  

Incumbent Republican state Senator Thomas O’Mara (R-Finger Lakes) maintained his seat for a fifth term serving the 58th Senate district, which includes Ithaca and a large swath of the Southern Tier. 

O’Mara’s Democratic opponent, Amanda Kirchgessner, ran on a working class message, but faltered in the wake of accusations of domestic abuse made by her ex-wife and published by the Ithaca Times a month before the election. 

Kirchgessner denied the accusations, but the controversy caused local Democrats like Ithaca alderpersons Ducson Nguyen and Seph Murtagh and Tompkins County legislator Shawna Black to pull their support, according to the Ithaca Times. 

In late October, Kirchgessner announced she was returning all of her endorsements and subsequently referred to herself in an interview as a “progressive Republican,” causing liberal fundraising platform ActBlue to drop her campaign.

Senate

The odds of an upset against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) by Republican challenger Chele Farley were always a longshot, and Gillibrand’s next six years in the Senate were cemented shortly after polls closed at 9 p.m.  

Gillibrand, an Albany native, first took office in 2007 as congresswoman from New York’s 20th District. In 2009, then-Governor David Paterson appointed her to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Hillary Clinton’s rise to Secretary of State. 

Farley, a Stanford-educated former investment banker, struggled to gain wide name recognition among New Yorkers and raised less than one-fifteenth of Gillibrand’s $20 million war chest, according to Opensecrets.org. 

Though Gillibrand has made no indication of a 2020 presidential run, her national prominence as an outspoken advocate in the #MeToo movement and solid Democratic support has put her on the shortlist of Democrats most likely to run against Trump. 

U.S. House of Representatives Races in New York

New York Democrats vying for seats in the U.S House of Representatives fared well in the few battleground districts throughout the state, picking up wins in the 19th, 22nd and 11th for a net gain of two seats.

In the 23rd district, which includes Tompkins County and Ithaca, incumbent Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) felled his third Cornell alumnus challenger since 2012. 

19th District 

Democrat Antonio Delgado prevailed in flipping the right-leaning 19th district after one of the most competitive House races in the state, notching a nearly three-point victory over incumbent John Faso (R-N.Y.)

In a year of record-setting midterm spending nationwide, the race in the 19th was the 8th-most expensive House race in the country. Candidates in the district raised a combined total of $11.8 million, over $3 million more than the next highest district total in New York, according to Opensecrets.org. 

The competitive race attracted high-profile political figures from both sides of the aisle. 

Delgado’s bid attracted endorsements from former President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, while Mike Pence and the House’s 3rd-ranking Republican Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) hit the campaign trail for Faso, according to the New York Times. 

Delgado is a Harvard-educated lawyer and first time political candidate who campaigned heavily against Faso’s support for the Republican health care bill and survived Faso’s attacks targeting Delgado’s brief career as a rapper.  

  

2nd District 

In one of the tightest forecasted races for a House seat in the state, Republican incumbent Peter King won re-election in New York’s 2nd District over first time candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley. 

King, a 25-year veteran of the House and credentialed moderate Republican, has won repeatedly in a district that includes parts of Suffolk county, one of 18 New York pivot counties that went to Obama in 2008 and 2012 and Trump in 2016, according to Ballotpedia. 

22nd District

Democratic challenger Anthony Brindisi carried the only New York district rated as a toss-up on the eve of the election by FiveThirtyEight, defeating incumbent Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.). 

Though Brindisi held a healthy lead in polling over the summer, forecasts showed the race tightening over the past month. But the late push from Tenney, who has represented the district since 2017, failed to overcome Brindisi’s early advantage. 

Brindisi is a state Assemblyman for the 119th Assembly district and a strong advocate for public education, according to his campaign website.

11th District

The 11th district representing parts of Staten Island, the only NYC borough to lean right, was an unexpected pickup for Democrats in their quest to control the House. Max Rose, an army veteran of Afghanistan and former CEO of a non-profit healthcare organization, defeated incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) by over five points. 

Donovan won a special election for the seat by 19 points in 2015 and was re-elected a year later by a margin of 26. Rose raised almost twice as much as the incumbent on the way to the upset win, according to Opensecrets.org. 

Ballot measures

All three ballot measures in New York City passed with wide margins, lowering campaign finance limits, creating term limits for community board members and creating a commission on civic engagement.  

The first proposal lowers the cap campaigns can accept from single donors and raises the limit candidates can receive from the city’s public funds matching program from $5,100 to $2,000. The proposition also makes it easier for candidates to qualify for public funding and increases the matching funds ratio from $6 for every $1 of eligible contributions to $8, according to gothamist.com.    

Proposal 2 creates a Civic Engagement Commission that would implement a program established by the mayor to promote citizen participation in community projects beginning in 2020. 

Finally, proposal 3 amends the city charter to limit community board members to four consecutive two-year terms and requires borough presidents to “seek out persons of diverse backgrounds” for appointments to the boards.