PRIMARY DAY: Polls open in New York legislative races, with all eyes on Bowman-Latimer contest

A primary voter reviewing ballot
FILE – A primary voter reviews a ballot
File photo/Dean Moses

New Yorkers are at the polls on Tuesday for primary day voting to decide the nominees for state legislative and Congressional races in the November general election.

The polls opened at 6 a.m. on June 25 and will close at 9 p.m. tonight. Primary contests are open only to voters registered with the respective party. New Yorkers experiencing problems at their polling sites are encouraged to report them by calling 311 or 866-VOTE-NYC. Find your polling site at vote.nyc.

Dozens of legislative races are on the primary day ballot, but all eyes are on the 16th Congressional District Democratic primary pitting progressive incumbent Congress Member Jamaal Bowman against moderate Westchester County Executive George Latimer. The 16th District covers a portion of the Bronx and much of Westchester County.

For weeks, Bowman and Latimer have been duking it out on the debate stage and in a bombardment of television ads, with a fervor normally reserved for general election races between Democrats and Republicans. Some of the biggest issues in that contest have centered on Bowman’s record in Congress, including his stance on the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

The rivals have captured national attention on the campaign trail because of their contrasting views on the war. Some say the election might be a broader indicator of Democrats’ stances at a time when the party is split between progressives and moderates. The NY-16 contest is also the most expensive House primary in American history, thanks in part to massive contributions from political action committees outside the area.

A recent Pix-11 poll had Latimer up about 17 points on Bowman, which may also reflect Latimer’s name recognition in the heavily Westchester district.  

P.S. 11 in Highbridge serves a polling site for the Primary Election on Tuesday, June 25, 2024.Photo by Emily Swanson
A poll worker instructs a voter on June 25, 2024.Photo by Dean Moses
People voting at P.S. 92 in Manhattan on June 25, 2024.Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller
Empty voting stations at P.S. 189 on the Upper East Side during a primary on June 25, 2024.Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

Democrats in the city are also deciding a number of Assembly nominees in Tuesday’s primary. Three big races are in Manhattan, including the 68th Assembly District race, where incumbent Assembly Member Eddie Gibbs faces a stiff challenge from three candidates.

Western Queens voters are also focused on the 37th Assembly District race where embattled incumbent Assembly Member Juan Ardila, previously accused of sexual harassment, is looking to fend off two challengers.

And in Brooklyn’s 41st Assembly District, Democrats there will be looking for a candidate to succeed the retiring Helen Weinstein, who has held the seat since 1980. City Council Member Kalman Yeger and Adam Dweck are squaring off for the right to succeed Weinstein as the party standard-bearer in the district.

Light turnout

Turnout, so far, has been very low, as primaries have trended in recent years. As of 3 p.m. June 25, the city’s Board of Elections reported a total of 114,803 voter check-ins, which included the 46,421 check-ins during the nine-day early voting period that concluded on Sunday, June 23. That means some 68,562 voters across four boroughs (none in Staten Island because there are no primary elections there this cycle) had checked in on Primary Day itself.

At the P.S. 189 polling site on the Upper East Side, voters like Gordon Gartrell had little difficulty casting their vote. Gartrell said he was there to make his voice heard ahead of the November general election, and expressed appreciation that one candidate in the 68th Assembly District race — Xavier Santiago, who is challenging incumbent Eddie Gibbs — personally reached out to ask for his support. 

“We had a long conversation and that was pretty good,” Gartrell said. “That’s the first time it’s ever happened to me where a candidate ever actually reached out with a phone call.”

Gartrell declined to say who he voted for, but noted that while Gibbs is “alright” in his view, “the personal touch helps.”

A person casts their vote, with a dog sitting beside them, at the Bernie Wohl Center on the Upper West Side on June 25, 2024.Photo by Dean Moses
People voting at P.S. 92 in Manhattan on June 25, 2024.Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller
Assembly Candidate Xavier Santiago on the Upper East SidePhoto by Ethan Stark-Miller

Santiago was down the block from P.S. 189 as part of his last-minute push for support. 

“I’ve knocked on over about 5,500 doors, made 1,000 phone calls personally [since January],” Santiago said. So we’ve done the work, getting a sense of like what turnout is like.”

Voter activity was more robust at P.S. 72, where poll workers reported a consistent flow of ballot-casters on Tuesday morning. 

One of them, Francisco Diaz, cast his vote for Gibbs in the Democratic primary, citing his connection to the neighborhood.

“He’s passed some good legislation,” Diaz said. “He’s from the neighborhood he’s been around, and he is passionate about community and cares about people. And he’s trying to do the best he can given the circumstances.”

On the other side of Manhattan, Upper West Side voters were turning out for the 69th Assembly District seat contest to decide a successor to the retiring Danny O’Donnell. 

At the Bernie Wohl Center, longtime Democrat Lydia Fink said she chose former Hochul aide Micah Lasher in the race as she seeks a strong defender of women’s rights.

“I voted for Micah Lasher. The aging population, abortion rights, and voter rights are big issues for me,” Fink noted.

Fink also complained that the process to vote was not a simple one this year, stating that she has been moved from poll site to another.

“I’m 77-years-old. I’m hot as blazes, and I’m sweating,” Fink said. “I almost didn’t vote.”

After the polls close tonight, we’ll also have a recap of unofficial results.

Stay tuned for further updates.

Updated on June 25 at 11:35 a.m.