Cuomo Holds Off Teachout Challenge in NY Dem Primary

Cuomo – Teachout primary
From left: Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Zephyr Teachout

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Tuesday comfortably defeated his Democratic challenger Zephyr Teachout in a primary that progressive Democrats used to assail Cuomo’s alleged right-leaning policies, hoping that a competitive showing by Teachout would force the governor to lean left on hot-button issues.

Cuomo’s running mate Kathy Hochul was also victorious, holding off Timothy Wu, her challenger for lieutenant governor. The Associated Press called both races just before 10:20 p.m.

With 46-percent of precincts reporting, both Cuomo and Hochul had 60 percent of the votes. Teachout and Wu grabbed 35 and 40 percent of the votes respectively.

The New York State Democratic Committee used Twitter to relay a statement from Cuomo’s camp:

“I want to thank the extraordinary people who helped make this night possible,” Teachout said during her concession speech at Hudson Terrace in New York City. “The fracktivists! The public finance activists! The teachers and parents who are fighting for the education of their children.”

“I will not be the next governor of this state,” Teachout added, “but the Democrats have spoken and they have been heard.”

Wu, who was mingling with the crowd prior to the polls closing, was the first to concede.

“We need to renew our party’s commitment to economic justice,” he told the crowd. “We need to be the party that believes in America, in integrity.”

“Zephyr Teachout is the cure for cynicism,” he added.

The stage is now set for the gubernatorial race between Cuomo and Republican candidate, Rob Astorino, the Westchester County Executive.

Zephyr Teachout
Zephyr Teachout during her concession speech after losing the democratic primary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “I will not be the next governor of this state,” she said, “but the Democrats have spoken and they have been heard.” (Jaime Franchi/Long Island Press
Teachout and Wu used the campaign to essentially accuse Cuomo of being a closet Republican who is so beholden to his wealthy contributors that he’s incapable of standing up for Democratic values and therefore unable to eradicate corruption in Albany.

Teachout, a Fordham Law professor, infused energy into her campaign despite little name recognition by rallying behind a growing group of educators and parents against Common Core, as well as environmentalists who for years have called on Cuomo to ban hydrofracking.

In the end, however, Teachout’s insurgent campaign couldn’t dethrone the incumbent Cuomo, who remains popular across the state and went into the primary with a significant financial advantage.

Cuomo claimed victory without doing much campaigning at all. He chose not to engage Teachout in public or face off in any debates—even going so far as to say some debates he’s been in actually turned out to be a “disservice to democracy.”

In the weeks leading up to the primary Cuomo chose not to even acknowledge Teachout’s existence and was caught on video during a Labor Day parade ignoring her even though she was standing only several feet away from him.

“Where’s Mayor Bill de Blasio?” Cuomo is heard saying in the video as Teachout awkwardly stood nearby. “Where’s the mayor when you need him? Where’s the mayor? We need the mayor!”

Cuomo’s campaign’s tried twice to knock Teachout off the ballot by challenging her residency in court, but failed both times.

Teachout’s campaign was much more spirited.

Timothy Wu
Lt. Gov. hopeful Timothy Wu at the Teachout/Wu primary party in New York City. (Jaime Franchi/Long Island Press)

She accused Cuomo of failing to live up to Democratic principles while she traveled across the state. Teachout pledged to ban fracking and said she’d discontinue Common Core education standards. Teachout, who authored a book about corruption in America that hits shelves this week, said voters could trust her with cleaning up Albany.

And she blasted Cuomo as corrupt, using a recent New York Times expose about Cuomo’s disbanded Moreland Commission to bolster her point. (The Times reported that Cuomo’s aides frequently meddled with the anti-corruption panel when investigators got too close to the governor or organizations that supported him.)

Teachout gained steam as primary day neared, but it was her running mate Wu who perhaps got the biggest boost when the Times endorsed him over Hochul in the race for lieutenant governor.

Wu, a Columbia Law professor and champion of Internet freedoms—he coined the term “Net Neutrality”—was seen by political observers as the opponent with the best chance to threaten the Cuomo/Hochul ticket.

Hochul, a one-term congresswoman from a conservative district in Buffalo, is largely unknown downstate. The Wu camp spent a great deal of time attacking Hochul, who once received an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and joined a minority of Democrats (17) who voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt during a hearing into a botched gun-trafficking sting.

In her concession speech, Teachout expressed pride in what the ticket accomplished, despite falling short.

“This is still a big moment and I still want to celebrate it,” she said. “We have made history.”

“Albany has been in the grip of the politics of fear,” she continued. “Democrats don’t have to be afraid anymore. It’s okay to speak up.”