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Poll Shows NY Gov. Cuomo Far Ahead Of Challengers

File: Governor Andrew Cuomo at Norsk Titanium in Plattsburgh
Pat Bradley/WAMC

A new Siena College poll finds New York Governor Andrew Cuomo far ahead of his challengers in his quest for a third term in office. But the survey also shows that a failed primary challenger is still taking points away from the Democrat’s lead.

Cuomo leads his Republican challenger Marc Molinaro, by 22 points, at 50 percent to 28 percent. But Cynthia Nixon, the Democratic challenger who lost to Cuomo in the September 13 primary, is still drawing the support of 10 percent of the electorate. Siena College Research Institute spokesman Steve Greenberg says the numbers are “good news” for the incumbent governor, since in a multi-candidate race he does not need to win over more than 50 percent of the electorate. But he says there are some weaknesses. A growing percentage of voters, 46 percent, say they don’t really like the governor.

“That is the highest unfavorable rating Andrew Cuomo has ever had in a Siena poll,” Greenberg said.

50 percent of those asked gave the governor a favorable rating.

Nixon may not be on the ballot in November. The actor and education advocate is currently on the Working Families Party line, but members of that party are meeting later in the week to decide whether to remove her and replace her with Cuomo. Nixon has already said she won’t actively campaign for governor after her loss in the primary. Greenberg says the votes that Nixon could potentially draw represent the "never-Cuomo" voters, who might shift their backing to one of the three other minor party candidates.

“They are looking for a safe place to land that is not a Republican,” Greenberg said.

The three minor party candidates, Libertarian Party candidate Larry Sharpe, the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins and independent and former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, have a combined total of four percent of the vote, according to the poll.

Molinaro’s campaign condemned the poll, saying it is “part of Andrew Cuomo’s corrupt rigged system," because the college did not do a general election poll in August. Siena conducted general election polls in August during the last two gubernatorial races, in 2010 and 2014. Molinaro says since the last general election poll in June, Cuomo spent $25 million promoting the governor’s positions and denigrating his opponents. Siena in August 2018 instead focused on the democratic primary contest. Greenberg says the charges are baseless.

“Of all the absurd comments I’ve heard from a campaign that doesn’t like the results of a poll, this is by far the most absurd,” he said.

Greenberg says Molinaro’s biggest challenge is his campaign’s lack of money, in a big state where television advertising remains an important part of a campaign. Greenberg says more than half of the voters still don’t know who Molinaro is.

“It takes money to get known,” Greenberg said. “We are a big state with many media markets, including the most expensive (New York City) media market in the nation.”  

There are also twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans in New York.

The poll also found that the closest statewide race this November is for attorney general. Democratic candidate and New York City Public Advocate Tish James is 14 points ahead of Republican candidate Keith Wofford.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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