New York voters on Tuesday rejected changes to New York's constitution and, likely, a socialist challenge to the mayor of the state's second largest city. Democrats lost ground in key suburban strongholds that could be bellwethers for next year. And the race for governor is now formally taking shape.
Here are four takeaways from last night's election results:
1. A good night for incumbent moderates.
In Buffalo, Mayor Byron Brown appears poised to keep his job after waging an unlikely write-in campaign following a surprise loss in a June Democratic primary. He did despite the progressive world focusing a lot of attention on his challenger, India Walton.
The camapign took place against the backdrop of labor unrest in the city, with an ongoing strike at Mercy Hospital and a union organizing drive at Starbucks locations in western New York.
Walton, a Democratic socialist who won the backing of the Working Families Party and received visits from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was also backed by establishment leaders like Senate Majoritty Leader Chuck Schumer.
The race became ground, too, for early manuevers in the race for governor. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo resident herself, declined to make an endorsement. Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Long Island lawmaker, backed Brown.
For Suozzi, it's a vindication of where the electorate is heading into next year as he considers a bid for gubernatorial nomination.
“Byron Brown’s victory tonight is a clear triumph of core Democratic values over the far left socialist agenda," Suozzi said in a statement. "Voters know that pragmatism, solving problems and actually getting things done is what makes government work better for them."
For its part, the progressive WFP in a statement from state director Sochie Nnaemeka said the Walton campaign ultimately showed what's possible in a city like Buffalo.
“No matter the final results, it’s clear that Buffalo is undergoing a major transformation. India Walton has shown what’s possible when working people come together and challenge the political status quo," she said. "She never strayed from her values and principles, even as Byron Brown and his GOP-backers ran a campaign fueled by fear and division. Our party remains committed to advancing a working people’s agenda in Buffalo — one that prioritizes affordable and dignified housing, inclusive economic development, and reimagined public safety.”
2. Republicans win the suburbs.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, hailed as a hero by Democrats only a few years ago for winning a district once held by Republican Dean Skelos, appears to have lost the race for Nassau County district attoney to GOP candidate Mary Donnelly. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran is trailing Republican Bruce Blakeman.
These results are tempered by the night Democrats had on the other side of the Long Island Sound, where Westchester County Executive George Latimer is cruising to another term even as Republicans made gains elsewhere.
In Nassau County, the issues dwelled heavily on changes made to the state's bail laws. Democrats have long argued were overdue changes meant to keep people from languishing in local jails while awaiting trial, and Republicans contend make the general public less safe.
The changes were partially rolled back, and advocates have pointed to statistics showing ending cash bail for many offenses holds little impact on broader crime rates. But the issue has proven to be a potent one for voters amid concerns over violent crime in the last year.
Nassau County has trended toward Democrats in the last several election years. Once a Republican powerhouse, Democrats won legislative seats at the local and state level and held the county executive post and DA's office.
A statewide context will be different in 2022, presumably. But it's a sign of potential trouble going forward.
3. Voters just say no.
Are voters weary of any change? New York is on track to reject a constitutional amendment to make alterations to the state's redistricting process. Voters also appeared to reject no-excuse absentee balloting and an end to the 10-day pre-registration requirement for registering to vote.
The proposals — 1, 3 and 4 as numbered on the ballot — were opposed by Republicans and the Conservative Party as the changes could have helped Democrats gain an even greater advantage at the polls in Democratic heavy New York.
Good-government organizations were split over the redisticting changes, but backed the voting law amendments as a needed bolstering of access to ballots.
But those on the right waged a counter effort for voters to reject them.
"They were designed by the Joe Biden-led Democratic Party to weaken long-established election safeguards in their favor, just as they’re trying to do at the national level with HR1," said Conservative Party Chairman Gerry Kassar, referring to a federal voting law that has stalled in Congress. "We are confident that, when absentee ballots are counted, New York voters will have exposed this ploy for what it was, a gross attempt to subvert democracy."
But ballot questions were wordy, with the redistricting amendment being especially prolix. A backlash to those amendments was tempered by voters overwhelmingly backing the simplified question of whether there should be a right to a clean environment — a constitutional enshrinment that could have far wider effects than changes to redistricting.
4. The gubernatorial primary sprint begins.
It's hard to imagine Andrew Cuomo popping up at the victory party for a New York City mayor-elect.
But there was Hochul appearing alongside Mayor-elect Eric Adams on Tuesday night to congratulate him. It's a signal of the shifted dynamic in New York politics heading into 2022 as the field for governor becomes a crowded one.
Hochul is already facing a challenge from Attorney General Letitia James, who could soon be joined by New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio and Suozzi.
So Hochul will need all the allies she can get heading into next year. And why not have a newly elected mayor from Brooklyn be your friend?