Primary Day is almost upon us (Thursday, Sept. 13!). You can find your poll site and a sample ballot here. Read all the way through that ballot, which might include some names for county committee: your neighborhood could have a primary for that low-level but important and newly contested entryway to local democracy that we talked about last week.
While you ponder your choices, here are some updates from the campaign trail.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was slammed this week for inflammatory mailers that insinuated that opponent Cynthia Nixon would be bad for the Jewish community. Nixon has Jewish children and attends a synagogue, and some allegations in the mailers were not accurate. The mailers were paid for by the state party which Cuomo effectively controls, but he has denied responsibility.
There have been more campaign-propaganda controversies. Sen. Simcha Felder, the Brooklyn Democrat who has helped give Senate Republicans the gavel in Albany, has for years had a strong grip on power thanks to support from his district’s Orthodox Jewish community, whose interests he has represented well.
Some of that dynamic can be seen in strong language in images circulating on social media ahead of Felder’s Thursday primary against Democrat Blake Morris. The ad-like images urge voters in Yiddish to “wake up to the catastrophe! The progressive liberals are working really hard to bring out the greatest number of votes for their candidate who is consistently banging on our community and our way of life.”
The images also assert that “in only a few days we will rescue the future of Jewish Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] life in New York State.”
These and other images were sent to reporters by David Goldberg, a member of a Brooklyn community group in which challenger Morris (who like Felder is Jewish) was also a leader before his run.
Goldberg said the images, whose provenance isn’t identified, have circulated on WhatsApp groups. Similar ads and language have been printed in local outlets. One image appeared obliquely on Felder’s campaign Twitter account, when he retweeted a supporter defending him from a Jewish reform group who included the image.
AmExpress got translation help from Rivka Augenfeld, a former board member of the Jewish Public Library in Montreal, and not a New York voter.
One image shows a man trying to open the doors of a closed school, dramatizing one issue that has been central to Felder’s career. He has fought for aid and less state oversight for yeshivas in New York, despite investigations by the city’s Department of Education.
Attention on Felder and his colleagues is high this year.
Democrats are looking to ride an expected blue wave and regain effective control of the upper chamber in the general election in November. For the Thursday primary, multiple young Democrats are challenging former Independent Democratic Conference members, who along with Felder have bolstered Republicans rather than Democrats. The IDC folks have since come back to the Democratic fold, but credible challengers in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and beyond are hoping to punish the renegade Dems for straying. If the challengers succeed, it’ll be significant: the supposedly blue State Senate potentially turning actually blue.
Finally, the polls: a last-minute survey of likely Democratic primary voters released this week by Siena College found that Cuomo leads Nixon, the actress and education activist, by a whopping 41 percent, while candidates for attorney general are more tightly clustered: suburban Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney with 25 percent, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James with 24 percent, and law professor and former gubernatorial challenger Zephyr Teachout with 18 percent.
Nixon has claimed that Cuomo’s bad week will matter — beyond the dirty mailers, he has also found himself in a controversy thanks to the apparently-too-quick opening of the new Mario M. Cuomo née Tappan Zee Bridge. A New York Times article on Monday found that the state offered the contractor enticements to open the bridge on time. Safety considerations forced the actual opening to be postponed, despite a big ceremony on Friday.
Nixon also has said the polls are off, and they certainly have been in smaller races in which insurgent Democrats have shocked the country (including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has endorsed Nixon). Will different (perhaps younger) voters show up on Thursday, on this confusingly non-Tuesday primary? Or will the fairly consistent polling information be accurate this time?
Check back in Thursday night — after you vote.