Updated: A guide to Cuomo’s 2018 challengers

Cynthia Nixon
Cynthia Nixon
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Cynthia Nixon.

Updated: A guide to Cuomo’s 2018 challengers

Cynthia Nixon isn’t the only one vying to knock off Andrew Cuomo.
July 9, 2018

With the state primaries just a couple months away, the gubernatorial election is in full swing. More than half a dozen Democratic, Republican and third party candidates are challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is seeking his third term. Here is the state of the race as the primary race shifts into gear.

Democratic candidates

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Andrew Cuomo
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Andrew Cuomo
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Andrew Cuomo
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Lev Radin / Shutterstock
Gov. Andrew Cuomo – The Democrat announced in 2016 that he would run for a third term. Overall, his poll numbers have been solid. In a January poll by Siena College, Cuomo had a strong 62 percent favorability rating, with 76 favorability among Democrats. However, his ratings have since slipped. A Siena poll in April showed his favorability at 49 percent, and 62 percent among Democrats, although he had a 31 percent lead against Nixon in a primary matchup. A Quinnipiac poll in June showed Cuomo’s lead was only by 22 percentage points, but a June Siena poll showed him with 35-point lead.

Cuomo enjoys the support of most Democratic elected officials who have endorsed in the race, including the national party chairman Tom Perez. He was easily crowned the designated Democratic nominee at the state Democratic convention in May, with in-person endorsements from Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Nonetheless, Nixon seems to be gathering momentum. A wave of progressive enthusiasm just carried Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – with whom Nixon cross-endorsed – to victory against Rep. Joseph Crowley. In 2014, primary challenger Zephyr Teachout garnered 34 percent of the vote against Cuomo, signalling that the governor could be vulnerable to a challenge from the left.

However, while Teachout was able to campaign largely on concerns over fracking and the environment in 2014, the governor passed several progressive measures during his second term that could ward off a potential challenger on the left. “Cuomo has built up an awful lot of armor on his left flank based on delivering on issues like climate change, fracking, education, the LGBT front and, of course, minimum wage and paid family leave,” said Democratic political consultant Bruce Gyory.

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Cynthia Nixon
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Cynthia Nixon
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Cynthia Nixon
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Cynthia NixonThe former “Sex and the City” star, education advocate and ally of Cuomo rival New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on March 19 that she is running for governor, after months of publicly hinting that she was mulling a gubernatorial bid. Earlier in March, NY1 reported that Nixon was consulting with Rebecca Katz and Bill Hyers, two former advisors to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Nixon has focused her campaign on hitting Cuomo on his perceived weak spots among liberal voters, criticizing him on his handling of the MTA, and going to the left on issues such as abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and legalizing recreational marijuana. She has racked up the endorsements of New York City Councilmen Carlos Menchaca, Antonio Reynoso and Jimmy Van Bramer, as well as former city Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Nixon has also cross-endorsed with several progressive insurgent challengers in down-ballot races.

However, Nixon’s policy positions are often not that much further to the left than the governor’s. Her recently proposed plan to fix the MTA includes congestion pricing, which was supported by Cuomo. Her celebrity status may work against her, as New Yorkers could be wary of entertainers seeking higher office in the era of President Donald Trump.

Republican candidates

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Marc Molinaro
Philip Kamrass / Office of the Governor

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro - Molinaro declined to run at the beginning of the year, but a “Draft Molinaro” campaign from some statewide Republicans has induced him to enter the fray. He officially launched his campaign on April 2. He quickly racked up endorsements from the many Republican county leaders, giving him enough support to win the Republican nomination at the party’s state convention in May, forcing state Sen. John DeFrancisco out of the gubernatorial race.

Third-party candidates

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Stephanie Miner
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Stephanie Miner
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Stephanie Miner
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City of Syracuse
Stephanie Miner – The former Syracuse mayor considered challenging Republican Rep. John Katko, but decided instead to launch an independent gubernatorial bid on the Serve America Movement line. Miner has a history of feuding with Cuomo, and could offer another option for sick of Cuomo and to the left of Molinaro. Her running mate is Republican Pelham Mayor Michael Volpe.

Joel Giambra The former Erie County executive was the second declared Republican candidate for governor, announcing his bid on Jan. 3, but his previous support for Democratic candidates like Hillary Clinton and de Blasio made state Republican leaders balk. Giambra dropped his bid for the Republican nomination on March 1 and announced that he would run as an independent. According to his Twitter page, he is still running as an independent. He would have until Aug. 24 to file 15,000 nominating petitions on an independent party line in order to run for governor.

Larry Sharpe – Sharpe, a businessman, has the Libertarian Party’s endorsement in the gubernatorial race. His positions include defunding the MTA.

Howie Hawkins – Hawkins was the Green Party gubernatorial candidate in 2014 and he has launched a campaign against Cuomo again this cycle on the Green Party line.

The state of the general election

If Cuomo fends off Nixon, he is well-positioned for the general election, despite the potential troublesome challenge from Miner. Democrats have a voter registration advantage in New York, and other Democratic officials in New York – such as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul – are popular in the state, while the Republican Party is not. New York has not seen a Republican candidate win statewide office since Gov. George Pataki, who was last re-elected in 2002. Gyory noted that any Republican candidate will be tied to the polarizing Republican in the White House. Referring to a Yiddish term for trouble, Gyory joked,  “In New York politics, Trump spells ‘tsuris.’”

Grace Segers
is City & State’s digital reporter. She writes daily content on New York City and New York state politics.
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