A change in our region’s political landscape

The political season is in full swing. The last primary election in New York state was held on Thursday, Sept. 13, and the November general elections are just around the corner.

While New York Gov.  Andrew Cuomo’s Democratic primary win comes as no surprise — putting him that much closer to a third term in office — it does encourage us to take a closer look at how things are slowly shifting in Albany, and in Washington.

Actress and activist Cynthia Nixon lost to Cuomo, garnering roughly 30 percent of the vote. But she didn’t just give the governor a race in the primary, she forced him to address progressive issues that have been brewing in the state, and in the nation, for a while.

Nixon brought to the forefront issues like a single-payer health care system, increased education spending for public schools and a massive overhaul of the ailing New York City subway system (which is controlled by the state). She criticized Cuomo for not being progressive enough, and for bending too much to Republicans when he should have been pushing through the party’s progressive priorities.

Cuomo fought back. He argued he’s achieved many milestones: paid family leave, minimum wage increases, stricter gun control laws. His willingness to stand up to President Trump was also touted as a major accomplishment — helpful both in statewide efforts and on the national front.

Yes, Cuomo said Nixon was too inexperienced, too naive about how Albany works. That may be so, but she certainly knew how to run an effective campaign — one that brought out critical issues.

Though Nixon lost, her participation in the primary was important. It also helped with other statewide races, many of which were won by newcomers and progressives, including several state senate candidates. Their potential victories in November could force Cuomo to address some of the issues introduced and supported by Nixon, in spite of her not making it to the state capitol.

In June, there was a major upset when House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley lost to newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the New York congressional primaries. Ocasio-Cortez’s victory was seen as a turning point for progressives — proving that there is support for their agenda on the state and national fronts.

Cuomo clearly took his progressive challengers seriously. He spent upwards of $8 million to defend his record against Nixon’s campaign, and brought in big guns like former Vice President Joe Biden to stump for him in television ads. Again, it reflects on the fact that the progressive agenda is likely here to stay.

Meanwhile, Cuomo’s Republican foe, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, continues to attack the governor on his policies and practices. It makes for a busy election season, one that will hopefully bring voters out to the polls come Election Day. A good sign: the turnout for last week’s primary was better than expected, that in light of the fact that New Yorkers don’t always make it a priority to vote in the primaries. 

We hope they do, though, come the general election. We’re sure voters will want to keep their eyes on the prize, and prepare to pick their top choices come Nov. 6. As we know all too well, every vote counts.