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Rough governor’s primary gives hope to Cuomo foes


Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s bumpy win in the Democratic primary is energizing his general election opponents, who said Wednesday that a little-known liberal challenger’s better-than-expected showing exposed big problems for the governor within his own party.

The governor traveled to Buffalo for a victory celebration with running mate Kathy Hochul as his campaign pivots to the general election. Cuomo beat law professor Zephyr Teachout, 62 percent to 34 percent, in Tuesday’s primary, a weaker-than-expected performance for a well-known incumbent facing a relative unknown with few campaign resources.

“I think you saw a repudiation (of Cuomo) by his own party last night,” Republican candidate Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, told Talk 1300 Radio on Wednesday. “There is no passion whatsoever for Andrew Cuomo.”

Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins said disaffected Democrats should support him in the November election. Hawkins finished third in the 2010 race.

“We will work to win the vote of all the principled progressives who invested their hopes in the Teachout campaign,” he said.

Locally, in the race for the newly created city court judgeship, former prosecutor Leticia D. Astacio beat out William T. Gargan, who heads the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office’s Domestic Violence Bureau, and Michael C. Lopez, special assistant public defender. Gargan had been endorsed by the Monroe County Democratic Committee.

Astacio will serve a 10-year term, starting Jan. 1, 2015. Cuomo OK’d the position and signed the legislation that created it last year.

Analysts say Cuomo is well-positioned to win re-election. He remains ahead of Astorino in fundraising, and polls give him a 2-to-1 lead. While Cuomo’s centrism may have caused him problems with primary voters, it’s more likely to appeal to more moderate general election voters.

“We must not turn back now,” Cuomo said in a statement issued after his win. “We can and we will continue to create jobs, reduce taxes, invest in education, and make New York a center for opportunity, innovation and equality for all.”

While the primary indicates that Cuomo has some weaknesses to repair with his base, many of same Democrats who supported Teachout in the primary could end up casting a vote for Cuomo in November, albeit reluctantly.

“The question becomes, where do these dissatisfied Democrats go in November? Astorino? Not likely,” said Baruch College political science professor Doug Muzzio. “Do they stay home? Do they go to Hawkins?”

Unofficial election results show Tuesday’s turnout was just under 10 percent, low even for a gubernatorial primary. Turnout in the last competitive Democratic primary for governor in 2006 was 14 percent.

Cuomo spent much of the primary campaign snubbing Teachout, refusing to debate and even turning away from her when she approached him at a recent parade in New York City. His campaign unsuccessfully sought to kick her off the ballot by challenging her residency. The tactics only served to embolden Teachout, a Fordham University law professor.

“In some ways this was his doing,” Marist College political scientist Lee Miringoff said. “He inadvertently created a flurry of activity around Zephyr Teachout.”