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As Vote Approaches, a Roundup of Primary Races

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tuesday is primary day in New York, and among the top races are for the Republican nomination for governor, with the two candidates in a dead heat, and a five-way wild card race for the Democratic spot for attorney general.

Tuesday’s primary races will come down to which campaigns have the best forces on the ground — field operations that have identified
supporters and can actually get them to the polls Tuesday.

That effort will be particularly crucial in the GOP gubernatorial race. A Siena college poll, conducted in the final days of the campaign, shows Republican designee and former Congressman Rick Lazio neck and neck with Buffalo businessman and Tea Party associate Carl Paladino, who petitioned his way onto the ballot. 

Paladino is leading among upstate voters, while Lazio is ahead in New York City and surrounding suburbs. In past elections, the  Republican vote has come equally from the two regions of the state, says Siena’s Steve Greenberg. But he says with few voters expected at the polls, the vote could go either way.

“The Republican primary turnout is going to be somewhere around 20%,” said Greenberg, who says the Democratic turnout could be in the “low teens.”

Five candidates are running for the Democratic slot for attorney general, and the Siena poll shows two frontrunners, Nassau County DA
Kathleen Rice and Manhattan State Sen. Eric Schneiderman in a dead heat, with Schneiderman at 25% and Rice at 23%. The three other candidates are Sean Coffey, who is in third place, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, and former State Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo.

As the race tightened, the leading candidates grew negative in the final days of the race. Carl Paladino and Rick Lazio each ran ads
accusing the other of being a liberal, hoping that label will be anathema to conservative GOP voters.

The last days of the attorney general’s race also featured attacks and counterattacks between the top two candidates. Kathleen Rice’s campaign sent out a statement to the media asking whether Schneiderman had “a Spitzer problem.” “No, not that problem,” the next line of the release states, and goes on to question Schneiderman’s transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars of his personal wealth into the campaign. Schneiderman’s camp responded with flyers reminding Democratic voters that Rice used to be a Republican, and charging that she forced part-time working mothers in the DA’s office to work full time or quit their jobs.

On Monday, both candidates received the support of law enforcement groups. Rice was endorsed by New York State Troopers and the Nassau County Sheriff; Schneiderman was backed by the state’s prison guards.

Greenberg, with Siena, says the last minute charges, counter-charges and endorsements are key, because there are more Democrats who remain undecided than support either of the two candidates, and there are three other candidates to choose from.

“Twenty-nine percent of Democrats said, heading into these final few days, that they were undecided,” Greenberg said.

There are two other Republican primaries as well on Tuesday, for the chance to run against New York’s two Democratic U.S. Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer.

Three are competing for a chance to challenge Gillibrand: Former Nassau County legislator Bruce Blakemen, former Congressman Joseph DioGuardi and former Bear Stearns chief economist and Reagan and Bush White House appointee David Malpass.

Schumer’s two potential opponents are marketing consultant Jay Townsend and former CIA officer Gary Berntsen.

There are also some state Senate primaries that could gauge public anger agasint the Senate. Among them, Albany Senator Neil Breslin faces a primary challenger, as well as Buffalo Sen. William Stachowski and Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada of the Bronx. But Greenberg, with Siena, warns against reading too much into the outcome of those contests just yet, because it’s a party primary, and “tends to bring out the most active and committed voters in this state.”

It will be the November election that determines whether the state Senate remains in Democratic hands, or reverts to Republican control.

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