NEW YORK-This state is now a redder shade of blue, but Democrats and progressives were able to, for the most part, fend off here the red tide that engulfed much of the country.
Tea party politics reared its head in the Republican Party primaries when Carl Paladino – an extremist who earned the nickname “Crazy Carl” for his homophobic rants, vocalized desires to turn prisons into “centers” for people on welfare and his threats of violence against elected officials – took the GOP nomination.
However, across the state, New Yorkers rejected that style of politics outright, handing Democrat Andrew Cuomo a 61 to 34 percent victory.
While his election represents a significant victory over the tea partying Republican crowd, Cuomo rankled a large section of Democratic-oriented voters, especially members of organized labor, which he referred to as a “special interest” with whom he would “get tough.”
Most of the state’s largest labor unions sat out the gubernatorial race as polls showed Paladino to be a shoe-in. Progressives who supported him did so on the Working Families Party line, which allowed people to vote for Cuomo but also send a message to him that they support labor and working people.
As of yet, it is not known how many votes came in for Cuomo on the WFP’s line.
Many progressives also took umbrage at a perceive racial insensitivity in Cuomo’s campaign, partially due to his bruising 2002 primary fight against Carl McCall, who could have been this state’s first Black governor. But while Brooklyn City Council member Charles Barron, picking up on Cuomo’s racial insensitivity, launched the Freedom Party, specifically to fight racism, most African American voters, sensing the danger of the tea party, pulled for Cuomo.
The GOP was rejected in other statewide races, including a victory by Thomas DiNapoli over Republican Harry Wilson for Comptroller.
Eric Schneiderman, who seemed to be running a neck and neck race for Attorney General with Dan Donovan, a Republican district attorney from Staten Island, pulled out a surprising 55 to 44 percent victory when all votes were tallied.
Schneiderman is considered by the labor movement and much of the African American, Latino and Asian communities as a true liberal or progressive. The GOP, and even more moderate Democrats, attacked him, for example, for his offer to bring Rev. Al Sharpton to Albany for input if elected.
The new Attorney General is expected to act as a counterweight – and possibly a voice for labor and racially oppressed people – against Cuomo when necessary.
As of press time, it is still uncertain as to which party will control the State Senate. The Democrats had previously held an extremely shaky 32-30 majority, but it now appears, with a few races yet to be called, that the best they can hope for is a tie. Still, even these races held bright spots for Democrats. Former City Council member Tony Avella, a Democrat, was able to beat Republican Frank Padavan in his race for a Queens State Senate seat – Padavan had held the seat for three decades.
In national races, there was a net loss of four seats. Of course, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, the state’s two Democratic senators won commanding victories. The losses were in Congressional seats. Six had been considered tossups, but Democrats retained two of them. Each of the seats Republicans took, however, had been held by the GOP as recently as 2006 or 2008. In those areas, also, registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats by solid majorities.
All of the Democrats, in both Congressional and statewide races, who were close calls owe their victories, at least in part, to organized labor. Rep. Tim Bishop, a Long Island Democrat who beat off a Republican challenger 51 to 49 percent. On Election Day, Bishop’s campaign headquarters parking law was full of volunteers from the labor movement, as well as others.
Bishop won in a majority Republican district with what would be considered progressive, not centrist, credentials. His campaign took on the issue of the economy and jobs by noting that his opponent, Randly Altschuler, was a millionaire who, in his private business, created thousands of jobs – but all of them in India, Sri Lanka or the Philippines.
Bishop’s race also attracted a number of activists. Jeanne Heifetz, of Brooklyn for Barack, an Organizing for America-affiliated group, wrote in an e-mail to volunteers, “Every door you knocked on, and every call you made made a significant contribution to Bishop’s victory.”
“Remind your friends,” Heifetz continued, “who are feeling despondent that activism really can make a difference, and the response to tonight’s news should be more activism, not less.”