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Sep 17 2018

2016 Primaries: The Aftermath and Backlash

The primary season is over, onto the November elections and hopes that the “Blue Wave” will continue. Primaries used to be called the “silly season” mostly because of the proliferation of candidates with nonsense ideas that were pretty laughable on their face. No more. Since the election of Donald Trump and surge of Republican control of, not only the federal government, but governorships and state houses, voters are paying greater attention and younger voters are getting more involved, the vast majority are progressives. Their are more women involved and running for offices against entrenched office holders and taking back seats long held by Republicans The shift is pushing moderate Democrats (Conserva-Dems or DINOs) to the left but its not wining them elections, especially down ticket.

The latest New York primary is a prime example. While Cynthia Nixon and Zephyr Teachout did not win in their respective races against the Andrew Cuomo ticket, their campaigns had an impact at the legislative level. Since 2011, a coalition of eight Democrats in the New York State Senate, know as the Independent Democratic Conference, have caucused with Republicans. This gave the GOP control of the Senate and the ability to block progressive laws from being passed. For their perfidy, these Democrats were rewarded with powerful and lucrative leadership positions on legislative committees.

In the 2012 election, the Senate Democrats technically took back the chamber, winning a numerical majority. But without the I.D.C. on their side, the Democrats could not muster the votes to install one of their own as the new majority leader. Instead, Mr. Klein and Senator Dean G. Skelos, then the leader of the Republicans, shared that title.

Over the next few years, more Democratic senators joined the group, and the Republicans have kept control of the legislative agenda. That has let the Republicans block much of the progressive wish list, including single-payer health care and voting reform.

They did so with the tacit blessing of Governor Andrew Cuomo, a corrupt Democrat who has lied in the past and reneged on many of his campaign promises.

Then the Thursday, September 13 state primary happened changing the outlook for control of the Senate and boxing Cuomo into a corner. The leader of the IDC Senator Jeffrey Klein of the Bronx was defeated by Alessandra Biaggi, a lawyer and former aide to Cuomo.

Also defeated were five other former I.D.C. members: Senators Tony Avella and Jose Peralta in Queens; Senator Jesse Hamilton in Brooklyn; Senator Marisol Alcántara in Manhattan; and Senator David Valesky in Syracuse. They fell to John Liu, Jessica Ramos, Zellnor Myrie, Robert Jackson and Rachel May, respectively.

The only former I.D.C. members to survive the primary were Senator Diane Savino, of Staten Island, and Senator David Carlucci, of Rockland County.

In another high-profile race, Senator Martin Dilan, who was not part of the I.D.C., was defeated by Julia Salazar, a 27-year-old democratic socialist whose candidacy energized young voters in swaths of gentrifying Brooklyn. [..]

Several of the I.D.C. challengers, as well as Ms. Salazar, had aligned themselves with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old first-time politician who, in a June congressional primary, upset Representative Joseph Crowley, the No. 4 Democrat in the House. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Ms. Biaggi and Ms. Ramos. Ms. Ramos’s district overlaps with Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s. [..]

The I.D.C. challengers also allied themselves with Ms. Nixon’s opposition to Mr. Cuomo, and to Zephyr Teachout’s attorney general bid. The Working Families Party, a progressive minor party and frequent antagonist of the governor, endorsed all the challengers and provided training and staff for their campaigns.

Bill Lipton, the state director of the W.F.P., cast the I.D.C. losses as a major triumph, even in the face of Ms. Nixon’s defeat. [..]

The I.D.C. members had faced primary challenges before, and they had long been a target for Democratic activists. But that anger, for years restricted to only the most politically attuned New Yorkers, crested over the past few months, in tandem with the surge of progressive energy nationwide after the 2016 presidential election.

Activists began calling the I.D.C. members “Trump Democrats” and sought to educate voters who knew nothing about their senators’ so-called betrayal.

The move by the IDC to dissolve back in April was a self-serving move to stop the progressive movement. They had done so before and activists, rightly, assumed they would again fail to keep their promise to return to the Democratic side of the aisle.

The often used phrase by former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tip O’Neill that “all politics is local” has proven to be very true in New York. There is still a long way to go. On November 6, these progressive candidates will have to win in order to flip the state Senate and flip some other vulnerable Republican held seats. If the trend holds and voters continue to channel their anger into results, Andrew Cuomo will face a very different state legislature in January, one that is not so friendly to his right wing policies.

The fight to take back this country and protect our democracy from the elements of the right wing that would see it destroyed begins at local elections. If these races for control of the New York State Senate are any example, progressives are winning the battles.