Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took a decisive step toward a third term on Thursday, quelling a liberal rebellion by turning aside the insurgent challenge of Cynthia Nixon to claim the Democratic nomination in New York.Mr. Cuomo had marshaled the support of nearly all of the state’s most powerful Democratic brokers — elected officials, party leaders,…
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took a decisive step toward a third term on Thursday, quelling a liberal rebellion by turning aside the insurgent challenge of Cynthia Nixon to claim the Democratic nomination in New York.
Mr. Cuomo had marshaled the support of nearly all of the state’s most powerful Democratic brokers — elected officials, party leaders, labor unions and wealthy real estate interests — to defeat Ms. Nixon, leading by an insurmountable two-to-one margin, with 46 percent of precincts counted. .
The race cemented both Mr. Cuomo’s standing as an unmatched force in New York politics and a merciless tactician with little regard for diplomacy.
Ms. Nixon had cast her first-time candidacy as a fight for the direction of the Democratic Party in New York and beyond, offering a pure brand of liberalism against Mr. Cuomo’s more triangulating pragmatism, a style defined less by ideology and more by what he deemed possible.
In the end, the governor’s record of achievements — on gun control, gay marriage, the minimum wage, paid-family leave and more — and his gargantuan fund-raising advantage spoke louder than Ms. Nixon’s objections over legislation he sidelined in the byzantine corridors of Albany’s capital.
[Here arethe latest resultsfor all the primary races in New York.]
The race was called about 30 minutes after the polls closed, with Mr. Cuomo receiving the results with his staff in Albany. The undercard races for attorney general and lieutenant governor, where insurgents allied with Ms. Nixon challenged loyalists to Mr. Cuomo, were still being tallied. As Ms. Nixon’s hopes faded as Primary Day neared, liberal activists had redoubled their efforts in those contests, as well as some legislative primaries, to provide a check on Mr. Cuomo’s power.
Mr. Cuomo’s victory ensures that no Democratic governor or senator in America lost a party primary in 2018, a sign of how steep a climb Ms. Nixon, an actress and activist, had faced, even before the governor’s campaign unloaded a sum close to $25 million to blanket the contest in a blizzard of television ads and glossy mailers.
In November, Mr. Cuomo, 60, will seek to match the three terms that his father, Mario M. Cuomo, achieved as governor. He has forcefully denied any presidential ambitions of his own, saying the only way he would not serve through 2022would be death.
Mr. Cuomo himself had sought to mostly ignore Ms. Nixon in recent months, focusing repeatedly on President Trump. His campaign, meanwhile, methodically pushed to undermine Ms. Nixon’s credibility in often-caustic terms, tapping into the concerns of New York Democrats that an experienced governor is needed while a hostile Republican occupies the White House.
After a six-month slog versus Ms. Nixon, Mr. Cuomo now faces a less than 60-day sprint of a general election against the Republican, Marcus J. Molinaro, the affable Dutchess County executive who was oncethe youngest mayorin the nation. He, like Ms. Nixon, is expected to be drastically outspent by Mr. Cuomo. And in a heavily Democratic state in what most strategists predict will be a Democratic year, Mr. Molinaro’s bid is not seen as a top-tier race for Republicans nationally.
The final margin in the primary — polls never showed the race closer than 20 percentage points — belied the ferocity of the campaign, which began withthe charge that Ms. Nixon was an “unqualified lesbian”by a top surrogate for Mr. Cuomo and ended with amailer accusing her of silence on anti-Semitism. Mr. Cuomo called it “inappropriate” but did not apologize.
“He won ugly,” said Bradley Tusk, who served as campaign manager for former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
Even before the polls had closed, there were worried whispers from New York City to Albany of those who had crossed him readying for a coming retribution tour.
When Ms. Nixon burst onto the political stage in March, it was as if she hadunleashed the repressed id of New York progressiveslong frustrated with Mr. Cuomo’s transactional ways. But for many voters, Ms. Nixon never successfully presented enough evidence that she was prepared to be governor, other than offering what she was not: an Albany insider or Mr. Cuomo.
“If you run an outsider campaign, you have to run a campaign like Trump did, saying ‘Things are so bad that you’ve got nothing to lose, so who cares that I don’t have experience,’” Mr. Tusk said. “In this case, the guy with experience gets a lot done.”
She had roughly one-third of the vote, almost the same showing as Zephyr Teachout had four years ago.
Still, in losing, Ms. Nixon arguably made as much of a policy impact on New York as some elected officials have: Mr. Cuomo embraced a series of liberal ideas soon after her entry, including moving toward legalizing marijuana, extending voting rights to parolees and brokering a deal to dissolve a group of Democratic state senators who had aligned with Republicans in Albany.
While Ms. Nixon scored a record number of small donors for a New York race, she struggled to collect larger donations, pulling in a total of just under $2.5 million with about 10 days left in the race.
That is roughly how much Mr. Cuomo raised in a single day, at his birthday fund-raiser last December.
Mr. Cuomo stumbled across the finish line in the final days,dogged by questions of the timing of a bridge openingand the mailer that incorrectly sought to link Ms. Nixon to anti-Semitism. But it didn’t matter.
Mr. Molinaro has used both issues to hammer Mr. Cuomo in some of the opening salvos of the fall campaign.
For now, Ms. Nixon is still technically on the November ballot as the Working Families Party nominee. She must decide whether to withdraw, and if so, the party, which spent much of the year at war with Mr. Cuomo, must decide whether to grant its line to the incumbent governor. Ms. Nixon declined to discuss her plans in a radio interview earlier on Tuesday.