What ny businesses have riding on the primary election

Most pundits expect Democrats to capture a state Senate majority for the first time in nearly a decade, putting all the organs of New York government at their disposal: the Senate, Assembly, governor, attorney general and comptroller. Sept. 13, then, looms as a referendum on what kind of single-party rule Empire State entrepreneurs can expect: center-left and moderate on regulation or staunchly antibusiness.

This summer has seen the Democratic equivalent of the Tea Party, a long-watched kettle, finally boil up. Animus toward President Donald Trump and the national GOP has manifested here as a revolt against incumbents deemed insufficiently liberal. Following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s defeat of powerful Queens Rep. Joseph Crowley in June, some Democrats seeking state office are running as socialists.


Many more are pushing statewide single- payer health care, new limits on landlords’ ability to raise regulated rents and a focus on white-collar crime that harks back to Eliot Spitzer’s reign as "the sheriff of Wall Street."

Another consultant, generally critical of the governor, argued that a cosmopolitan actress is a poor messenger for Bernie Sanders–style economic populism, despite her co-opting of the Vermont senator’s democratic-socialist label. She has not capitalized on the Cuomo administration’s corruption scandals or on discontent with the transit system. The Manhattan-born Nixon has not resonated with the upstate voters who helped deliver more than a third of the 2014 primary vote to law professor Zephyr Teachout.

Much tighter is the race to become the Democratic nominee’s running mate. City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who recently professed his own democratic socialism, is in a fierce fight with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a former center-right congresswoman in the Buffalo area. Labor and other institutional forces have lined up with Hochul, but Williams—an African-American from Brooklyn—has demographic advantages. Lieutenant governors typically have no say on policy, but Williams would be a thorn in Cuomo’s side.

In any event, Cuomo’s third-term incarnation would barely resemble the fiscally conservative one from 2011 (see "Andrew Cuomo’s New York journey," page 13). Expect him to bite off big issues that have played well nationally and earned him mass publicity in the past year. Some, such as the public financing of elections, could limit the influence of business. Others, such as promoting immigration, could prove a boon.

The Legislature’s upper chamber has been the lone beachhead for the GOP and business interests, thanks in part to Bronx state Sen. Jeffrey Klein. From 2011 until April, he led the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, which cut a deal to share power with Senate Republicans after Democrats won a majority of seats in 2012. The IDC’s membership doubled to eight, and its war chest swelled with money from real estate, sanitation, hospital and liquor interests. But GOP control of the Senate grew intolerable to many Democrats after Trump’s victory, and Cuomo got Klein and his caucus to rejoin the mainline Democrats. Still, Klein remains business’s best hope of influencing policy in the new regime.

All eight face left-leaning foes, six in the five boroughs. The most vulnerable is Sen. Marisol Alcantara of Manhattan, who narrowly won a three-way primary two years ago. Former Councilman Robert Jackson is running against her again—though, as a plastic- foam-industry lobbyist, Jackson might be the most business-friendly candidate opposing a former IDC member. Also fighting for his political life is Queens Sen. Jose Peralta, whose district overlaps heavily with areas that supported Ocasio-Cortez. His opponent is the Nixon-backed Jessica Ramos, a former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Brooklyn Sen. Jesse Hamilton is in jeopardy as well. Challenger Zellnor Myrie, a lawyer supported by de Blasio and several members of Congress, has played up contributions Hamilton has received from real estate interests, and a Crain’sstory prompted a watchdog group to call for a probe of the incumbent’s use of an apartment for political purposes.

Klein faces an energetic left-wing challenge himself, from Alessandra Biaggi, the granddaughter of a late local congressman whose tenure ended in a corruption conviction. Biaggi has received support from city Comptroller Scott Stringer and Council Speaker Corey Johnson, among other leading liberals, and has targeted Klein for his dalliances with the GOP and conservative interests. The incumbent has pushed back hard and spent heavily, and experts Crain’s consulted regarded his re-election as likely, especially given the conservative bent of his district. For similar reasons, sources expected Queens Sen. Tony Avella to fend off former city Comptroller John Liu, and Staten Island Sen. Diane Savino to beat back activist Jasmine Robinson.

One insider speculated that the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, which makes up a plurality in the district, might not vote in large numbers because the primary falls between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur—and was in fact rescheduled to a Thursday to avoid coinciding with the celebration of the Jewish New Year. No one Crain’s spoke with, however, said that would tilt the election to Morris.

Another Brooklyn race perhaps best exemplifies the state of the Democratic Party. Sen. Martin Dilan has represented the once-immigrant- dominated and now- gentrified neighborhoods of Bushwick, Greenpoint and Williamsburg since 1992, and in that time has cultivated ties to the real estate community and affordable-housing developers. He faces a spirited challenge from Julia Salazar, a recent arrival to the area backed by the Democratic Socialists of America. Recent articles about Salazar’s personal background—they said she was born in Miami and raised a Christian but claimed to be an immigrant and a Sephardic Jew—and shifting allegiances could hamstring her candidacy.