Voters who feel behind the elections scheduled for Tuesday, August 23 can take comfort from the perspective of this professor of political science:
“The contests were so under the radar that I almost didn’t remember to vote early,” said Union College professor Zoe M. Oxley, who will be out of town next week. “I still vote, and it totally slipped my mind.”
Oxley said she did not expect a strong voter turnout on Tuesday. Early voting began on August 13.
“Generally speaking, it’s a primary that seems under the radar,” Oxley said.
Or, as Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said of the expected turnout: “I think it’s going to be pretty damn low.”
The lukewarm voter enthusiasm is likely due to the fact that this election is New York’s second primary of the summer — the first was in June — as well as the fact that many races are uncompetitive, said Oxley.
Still, Tuesday’s election, which took place this spring amid a lengthy legal battle over state redistricting lines that ended in May, has some intrigue. Tuesday’s contests include two Democratic primaries for U.S. congressional seats and a special election to fill the congressional seat whose Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado, a Democrat, resigned in May after being nominated to his current post.
Tuesday’s election also technically includes a Republican primary race in the state’s new 44th Senate District between state aces James Tedisco and Daphne Jordan, but Jordan announced his campaign suspension in June.
The race to fill Delgado’s seat is receiving the most national attention as it is a rare contest between a Democrat and a Republican ahead of November’s midterm elections. Many political onlookers watch the race between Marcus Molinaro and Pat Ryan as an indicator of the national political climate, but Oxley said that may be wrong.
“These special elections are sometimes predictive of what might happen in November, but not always,” Oxley said. “If there are issues that seem to be driving this contest that we know are also in play domestically, then I think you can read some domestic lessons for November from the race. But if it seems be much more focused on certain idiosyncratic or local issues, then I think you can’t learn national lessons.
Molinaro, who served as Dutchess County executive for nearly a decade, campaigned on Republican Party talking points, such as high inflation and gas prices, and appeared with U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik, third place in the U.S. House of Representatives. Republican, this week in Canajoharie.
Pat Ryan, the Ulster County executive since his appointment in 2019, tried to make abortion an issue following the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.
Since the race is a special election, all voters can vote, regardless of party affiliation.
Delgado won in what is now New York’s 19th congressional district, which includes all of Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan, and Ulster counties, and parts of Broome, Dutchess, Montgomery, and Rensselaer counties, in 2018 and 2020, but previously the seat had been under Republican control since 2011.
Tuesday’s winner will only hold the seat for about four months, serving out the rest of Delgado’s scheduled term.
“Whoever wins, his side will talk about what it tells us in November, and whoever loses, his side will say, ‘oh, that was just an election that really doesn’t tell us anything about what’s going to happen in November. november. ‘ The truth is somewhere in the middle,” Greenberg said.
The 21st Congressional District – which includes Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Montgomery, St. Lawrence, Schoharie, Warren and Washington counties, as well as parts of Jefferson, Otsego and Rensselaer counties – features a fairly competitive Democratic Primary between two young Matts: Castelli and Putorti. Castelli, of Glens Falls, is a former CIA officer and director of counterterrorism at the National Security Council, serving in both the Obama and Trump White Houses. Putorti, from Whitehall, is an openly gay lawyer who went to Boston College, Oxford University and Fordham Law School.
Putorti and Castelli have spent much of their energy campaigning against Stefanik, who Tuesday’s winner will face in a general election in a district that pollsters say favors Republicans.
“Whichever Democrat emerges victorious on Tuesday will be looking for some momentum to try and get going, but he’s definitely got a tough climb in this district,” Greenberg said.
Representative Paul Tonko, who has served in Congress since 2009, faces a Democratic primary challenger for the first time since his first congressional race in 2008. And even though Tonko’s hometown of Amsterdam has been excluded from the new 20th district of Congress, which now includes Albany, Saratoga, and Schenectady counties, as well as part of Rensselaer County, pollsters don’t expect Tonko to have trouble with Rostislav Rar, an attorney who specializes in 32-year-old immigration.
“Does (Tonko) have a challenger?” said Greenberg. “I didn’t realize there was someone on the ballot.”
Low turnout favors incumbents like Tonko, Oxley said.
The Republican primary for the state’s 44th Senate District was momentarily heated between Jordan and Tedisco after Tedisco said in May that he would run in the district – which does not include his hometown of Glenville – instead of the 46th Senate district of the state, where he would have faced Democratic Senator Neil Breslin in the general election. The 44th District includes all of Saratoga County, as well as the town of Schenectady and the town of Niskayuna.
Barring unforeseen events, Tedisco, which has sat at the state level since 1983, will face Democratic Schenectady County legislator Michelle Ostrelich in the general election.
After Tuesday, all campaigns and voters will turn to the general election.
“Traditionally, voters start focusing on the election after Labor Day,” Greenberg said. “So let’s see what comes out of Tuesday’s results, and then we’ll know what things are going to look like as we head into November and voters start paying more attention.”
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.