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NY Primary: Cuomo Defeats Challenger Teachout

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Governor Andrew Cuomo turned back a challenge from Zephyr Teachout in New York’s Democratic primary last night, but the boat’s been rocked.

If you glance at a map of New York’s Tuesday results, you'll see Fordham Law professor and political newcomer Zephyr Teachout beat Andrew Cuomo in several of New York's 62 counties, one of the strongest showings in a primary involving a sitting governor in half a century.    "I will not be your next governor, but the Democrats of this state have been heard," said Teachout, who was largely unknown to voters, soundly criticized Cuomo for his support for charter schools and business-friendly tax cuts while saying he hadn't done enough to address government corruption and income inequality.

"Andrew Cuomo has looted from schools to pay for tax breaks for big banks."  Teachout thanked supporters Tuesday night, telling them she envisions an economy and democracy that works for all, not just the well-connected.   "Albany has been in the grips of the politics of fear. I hope what we've shown is that its alright to speak up. Democrats don't need to be scared anymore."

Cuomo grabbed more than 60 percent of the vote with most precincts reporting as of midnight, although he was soundly defeated by Teachout across the Capital Region and down through the Hudson Valley. Drug law activist Randy Credico finished the race a distant third. One former Cuomo aide blamed anger at Cuomo from state employees, while others say Teachout’s anti-fracking stance may have helped in the region.

It has been suggested the outcome casts a long shadow on any national political aspirations Cuomo may be harboring.  The governor issued a statement congratulating Teachout and her running mate on their "spirited campaign," and he conceded to reporters that turnout can make or break any contest for public office:    "So, this is about 51% and then we have a general election, and that's what it's really about."

Former Buffalo single-term Congresswoman Kathy Hochul beat back a challenge from Tim Wu to win the Democratic nod for lieutenant governor by a similar margin to the Cuomo-Teachout race.   "And I will not let the voters down who put their faith in me," exclaimed Wu, a Columbia University law professor, who had criticized Hochul as being too conservative. He cast the dueling candidacies in a "David and Goliath" light:  "Many of you may not know this, but there was a team of five of us that was fighting a multi-million dollar machine, and I think we gave a pretty damn good show."

Before the primary, observers gave Wu an outside shot to defeat Hochul, which would not have sit well with Cuomo, who breathed a sigh of relief upon Hochul's victory.   "Kathy will represent you. She will be your voice, your representative. And you need one. You need one."  Incumbent Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy decided not to seek another term.

The Democratic duo now faces off against Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss in November.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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