Surprise! New York is holding its congressional primaries today. Tuesday’s primary is the second of three: Romney took top spot in April’s Republican presidential primary while voting for state legislature will take place on September 13th. This is the first time that the congressional primaries have been held in June, so voter turnout is expected to be as low as less than 20%, with the potential to dip into single digits. What’s at stake? Many of the districts have a strong enough Democratic majority that a win in the primary nearly guarantees election in November. Here’s what you need to know about five races to watch.
1. In the 13th congressional district (East Harlem to the northwest Bronx), 82-year-old Charles B. Rangel is running for his 22nd term. Despite a 2010 House censure for income tax violations and his subsequent replacement as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Rangel still has Governor Andrew Cuomo’s endorsement. This powerful African-American politician, a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, may suffer from recently redrawn district lines: his district now has a Hispanic majority. The demographic change is expected to benefit his foremost challenger, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who if elected would be first Dominican-American Congressman. Also gunning for Rangel’s seat is Clyde Williams, former domestic policy advisor to President Clinton and national political director for the Democratic National Committee, who has been endorsed by the New York Times and the New York Daily News.
2. In the 8th district (parts of Brooklyn and southwest Queens), Democrat Edolphus Towns is retiring. Battling to replace him is assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who has the support of the incumbent as well as Senators Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, Governor Cuomo, and the New York Times and who faces City Councilmember Charles Barron. Barron has made a number of racially charged and controversial statements: he called Israel “the biggest terrorist in the world,” as well as defending his choice to invite Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe to City Hall by saying “Robert Mugabe is my hero and guess what, so is Muammar Gaddafi.” Politico reported that Jeffries has raised $770,445 to Barron’s $113,640 (40% of which was from Barrons himself), so if the money is any indication this should be a win for Jeffries.
3. In the 6th District, (central and northeast Queens) Gary Ackerman is retiring. After his post are state assemblywoman Grace Meng, who would become the first Asian-American member of congress from New York and has the backing of the New York Post, the Times, and Ackerman himself, as well as assemblyman Rory Lancman and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who will benefit from her appeal to working-class voters. The district’s population is 40% Asian, so it will be interesting to see what role race plays in the election.
4. Moving upstate from New York City we reach the recently redrawn 27th District, where it’s the wealthy businessman vs. the war hero. Republican and former Erie County Executive Chris Collins, 62, is running on a platform that emphasizes his business experience and hopes to strengthen US manufacturing. David Bellavia, 36, earned a Silver Star and a Bronze Star in Iraq and has sold the movie rights to his war experiences. Ballavia has the endorsement of New York State Right to Life organization, but Collins has connections to powerful businessmen.
5. Last but not least is the Republican search for a candidate to challenge Senator Kristen Gillibrand in November. The best known is Bob Turner, who won Anthony Weiner’s seat in the special election after Weiner was forced to resign for sending inappropriate photos via text message but who has refused to sign the anti-tax pledge that many republicans have signed, a move that will help him in November but might prevent him from making it that far. Turner faces Wendy Long, a lawyer endorsed by Conservative party, and George Maragos, the Nassau County comptroller.