Democratic and Republican voters in New York will decide the standard bearers and direction for their respective parties as they head to the polls on Tuesday to determine who should run for governor this November.
At the same time, Democrats will determine who should run as their candidate for lieutenant governor, a little-noticed, but increasingly important post given the scandal that has engulfed the governor's office a year ago. And voters scattered across New York will be determining candidates down ballot for the state Assembly and local judgships.
The primary is taking place against the backdrop of a polarizing age and pandemic exhaustion. Inflation and crime are at the tops of voters' minds, public polling has shown. A pair of Supreme Court rulings striking down New York's concealed carry law and the Roe v. Wade decision have moved the issues of guns and abortion to the forefront of Democratic concerns.
Here are five things to watch for on primary day in New York.
1. What will turnout look like?
Typically turnout is low for a primary in New York state. Only 178,223 voters cast ballots statewide during nine days of early voting, according to the state Board of Elections. For some perspective, about 190,000 early votes were cast in the low-turnout New York City mayoral primary a year ago.
This is also the first gubernatorial primary being held in June, a switch from September — a change that could also drive turnout lower.
If turnout is low, that could help the designees of both parties, Gov. Kathy Hochul and U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, who will likely capture the highly engaged voters. But at the same time, that could also aid the highly motivated activists running down ballot, including lieutenant governor Ana Maria Archila, as well as the challengers seeking to defeat incumbent members of the state Assembly.
2. Who votes?
When Carl Paladino scored an upset win over preferred Republican nominee Rick Lazio in 2010, he did it with the help of western New York Republicans. When Andrew Cuomo was pushing Democratic voters to give him a third term, he targeted Long Islanders.
Turnout isn't just important for the sheer number of people who vote, but where these voters live and who they are. Will Hochul's western New York roots help her with her own party? Will Zeldin's large pool of Republican voters in Suffolk County give him an insurmountable edge?
3. What do Republicans want to accomplish?
The GOP candidates for governor — Zeldin, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, former Trump administration official Andrew Giuliani and businessman Harry Wilson — have all made variations of the same argument: They are the most electable Republican in a heavily Democratic state.
Republicans are shut out of statewide power, having lost their last lever of control in Albany in 2018 when the state Senate flipped to the Democrats. They have not won statewide since George Pataki's third term victory in 2002.
And in the 20 years since Pataki's win, the state has only trended more Democratic, and independent, non-aligned voters outnumber Republicans.
The GOP hopes the stoking of concerns over affordability and crime could help them overcome that vast enrollment deficit.
4. What do Democrats want to accomplish?
In February, New York Democrats held their state party convention to designate Hochul their preferred nominee. The event was Hochul's party, and her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, an after thought.
Democrats have spent the last year trying to turn the page from Cuomo, a dominant presence in Albany and state politics for the last 10 years. Hochul, who served as Cuomo's lieutenant governor since 2015, has portrayed herself as a tempermental opposite from the former governor.
Hochul has also landed into a sort-of middleground with her two opponents. Rep. Tom Suozzi has criticized her approach on crime, arguing he would take a firmer stand on the issue. New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is running in the left lane, knocking her as "Cuomo 2.0."
Either way, Democrats will move on from Cuomo after June 28. The general election will mark the first time he has not been on a statewide ballot in 20 years.
5. Does New York's left score a win?
Progressives have won upset victories in state Assembly and state Senate races, with challengers seeking to replicate the primary win of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over Joe Crowley. But the left lane has not been a clear path to victory statewide. Zephyr Teachout notched about 34% of the overall vote in 2014; ditto for Cynthia Nixon in 2018.
Williams, now running for governor, came the closest to scoring an upset victory over then-Lt. Gov. Hochul that year.
Now, in a three-candidate field for lieutenant governor, activist Ana Maria Archila hopes to get progressives over the hump. She's facing the preferred running mate of Rep. Tom Suozzi, former New York City Councilwoman Diana Reyna and Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado (a quirk in New York law requires candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run separately).
A former congressman from the Hudson Valley, Delgado has only been in the job for about a month following the arrest of former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin on corruption charges.
Delgado is running as an ally of Hochul, and his campaign has blanketed TV and radio airwaves as well as mailboxes of registered Democrats with flyers. Can only a few weeks' time be enough to help Delgado win statewide?