As widely expected, incumbent New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defeated Democratic primary challenger and Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout on Sept. 9. But the numbers at the polls show that Teachout’s candidacy did resonate with the progressive wing of the party.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, WNYC radio in New York reported Sept. 10 that Cuomo had captured about 62 percent of the vote, while Teachout, who made left-wing opposition to Cuomo’s education policies one of the pillars of her campaign, garnered 34 percent. Historically, “protest” candidates challenging incumbent Empire State governors in primaries have garnered only about 20 percent of the vote, according to the Wall Street Journal.
As I wrote previously, political analysts said Teachout would exceed expectations if she got more than a quarter of Democratic voters to support her.
Teachout wants to end the Common Core State Standards in New York state as well as the link between standardized tests and teacher evaluations. She also wants significantly more funds available to public schools in the state, and opposes what she views as Cuomo’s embrace of the privatization of education.
Expectations were somewhat higher for Tim Wu, who ran for lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary as Teachout’s running mate. Some believed that he stood a chance to knock off Cuomo’s preferred candidate for the number two job in the state, former U.S. Representative Kathleen Hochul, but Hochul beat Wu by a 60-40 margin.
While the New York State United Teachers did not endorse a candidate in the race, the statewide union has, like Teachout, heavily attacked Cuomo for the roll-out of the common core and aligned tests in the state.
In the general election, Cuomo will face Republican Rob Astorino, who like Teachout is determined to end common core in New York.
Elsewhere, in the Rhode Island Democratic primary, state General Treasurer Gina Raimondo emerged from a three-horse race to win her party’s nomination for governor, while Allan Fung, the mayor of Cranston, got the GOP nod. Like Cuomo, Raimondo has been criticized by teachers’ unions in her state—in her case, the enmity dates back to her support for changes to the state’s pension system for public employees enacted in 2011. Labor unions in the state are fighting those changes in court.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.