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Paterson spins Cuomo’s primary performance


Jon Campbell

With Gov. Andrew Cuomo ceding 34 percent of the Democratic primary vote Tuesday to an upstart challenger with little name recognition and a shoestring budget, his campaign allies are out to put their spin on the results Wednesday.

The latest take on Tuesday’s election came from former Gov. David Paterson, Cuomo’s hand-picked chairman of the state Democratic Committee. Paterson echoed a sentiment displayed by current and former Cuomo aides last night: that low turnout coupled with votes from hydraulic fracturing opponents and public-employee union members helped boost Fordham Law School Professor Zephyr Teachout.

“In yesterday’s primary with so few contested races on the ballot and no real competition for the Governor’s race we saw surprisingly low turnout from Democrats—only about 10 percent of the over five million Democrats registered in New York showed up to the polls,” Paterson said in a statement. “When less people vote, the most passionate groups have the loudest voice and both the map and numbers showed exactly that.”

Teachout performed well in the Finger Lakes and the Catskills, two regions of the state known to have a large contingent of fracking opponents. She also won the Capital Region, home to a huge number of public employees who were held without raises in the early years of contracts negotiated with Cuomo’s office.

The alternative spin, of course, is that Cuomo has an issue with the liberal wing of his party.

Teachout positioned herself as a liberal alternative to Cuomo, accusing the incumbent of not doing enough to push traditional Democratic policies. She performed much stronger than recent primary challengers to candidates backed by the Democratic Committee, including then-Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, who garnered 18 percent of the gubernatorial primary vote against then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in 2006.

Ulster County Democratic Chairman Frank Cardinale said the “superprogressive” wing of the party used the primary to “send a message to the governor.” Teachout won Ulster with more than 70 percent of the vote.

“I think they were trying to send a message, and it’s a message sent and a message that should be heard,” Cardinale said Wednesday. “But also it’s not representative of the statewide Democrats.”

Paterson defended Cuomo’s record on fracking and negotiating with the public-employees union, the second largest of which—the Public Employees Federation—backed Teachout.

“In this instance, negotiating a responsible contract with PEF with three zeros when our state faced a multi-billion deficit, reforming a pension system that has been bankrupting local governments, creating accountability for teachers in our schools and putting science ahead of passion on fracking played a role in the primary and an even more important role in putting New York State back on the right track,” Paterson said.