It’s primary week again. If you’re thinking “didn’t we just do that?”, you are correct — New York is the only state that is holding multiple primaries this year. In 2012, it was decided that in NY, congressional primaries would be moved to June while state primaries stayed in September. Making things a little more confusing, this week’s voting is being held on Thursday instead of the typical Tuesday.
Despite New York’s odd voting schedule, it’s crucial to get out to your polling place this Thursday, September 13, and vote (polling locations in NYC will open at 6 AM and close at 9 PM).Whether you’re a news junkie or haven’t been paying attention, the people who are selected to represent us will make decisions that are bound to affect your life. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself ahead of every election: find out what seats are on the ballot, who the candidates are, and what they believe in.
To help you, I’m going to break down a few of the contested seats and what those representatives actually do.
Governor (Democratic Party): Incumbent Andrew Cuomo vs. Challenger Cynthia
Chances are you’ve seen #CuomosMTA on Twitter, or heard about the former Sex and the City actress and activist who is taking on Governor Cuomo. They have run very different campaigns: Cynthia Nixon has positioned herself as the progressive alternative to the incumbent, while two-term Governor Andrew Cuomo is running on reliability and past leadership.
But before you can make a choice on who should be the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, it’s a good idea to learn what a governor does. The Governor is responsible for implementing state laws and overseeing the operation of the state executive branch. Duties include approving state budgets, enacting and enforcing state laws, and confirming executive and judicial appointments. Some of the tools they have at their disposal to create and enforce policy are executive orders, executive budgets, and legislative proposals and vetoes. A governor’s policies can drastically shape the climate of a state and create lasting legislative change.
To learn more about what the two Democratic candidates stand for, watch their debate that was held on August 29 at Hofstra University. Also make sure you read the New York Times debate fact check and takeaways!
Note, on the Republican side, the current Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro is running unopposed.
Lieutenant Governor: NYC Council Member Jumaane Williams challenging Incumbent Kathy Hochul
The Lieutenant Governor can be thought of as a Vice Governor of sorts. However, the Lieutenant Governor runs his or her own campaign independently, even if they’re connected to a gubernatorial candidate.
Jumaane Williams represents NYC’s 45th District and is a progressive candidate who is endorsed by Cynthia Nixon. Williams does not want to be another “rubber stamp” Lieutenant Governor: he promises to be the “people’s governor” and pull Cuomo further left (if Nixon doesn’t win). Kathy Hochul is the incumbent and is running on her and Governor Cuomo’s past successes. On the Republican side, candidate Julie Killian is unopposed as the running mate of Marc Molinaro.
Lieutenant Governors are the only officials who have duties in both the executive and legislative branches of state government. Specific roles vary by state as dictated by the sitting governor, but the main function is to serve as President of the State Senate. The person in this position takes over if the governor is impeached, so it’s a good idea to put some research in before making a choice. To get to know the candidates, watch their debate.
Attorney General: Democrats Sean Patrick Maloney, Letitia James, Zephyr Teachout, and Leecia Eve face off
The Democratic primary for New York’s Attorney General is close this year, with polls showing a toss up between Sean Patrick Maloney, Letitia James, or Zephyr Teachout. Keith Wofford, a managing partner of New York City law firm Ropes & Gray, is running unopposed as a Republican.
No matter which Democratic candidate wins, it will be historic. Maloney has already made history as the first openly gay New York Congressman. James is a public advocate and the first African-American woman elected to city council. Eve is a Verizon executive who, if elected, would be the first Attorney General to be an African-American woman. Teachout is a law professor and is currently eight months pregnant.
An AG is the chief legal counsel of the state. They advise the executive branch and defend its legal actions and proceedings. They are basically the state’s go-to top lawyer for four years at a time.
In addition to these key positions, there are other state legislature seats being challenged. Check out Ballotpedia’s rundown to learn about the candidates’ platforms and endorsements.
Don’t forget to find the correct polling place here!