As it turned out, Cynthia Nixon was not the one.
The left-wing actor-activist and her slate of would-be statewide allies failed to capture the hearts and votes of most participating Democrats on Tuesday. But private sector interests had cause to both weep and cheer as the results came in.
Depending on what branch of government they looked at, the election was either completely predictable or utterly erratic. But as always, for some to win, others must lose. Let’s start with the latter.
Independent Democratic Conference: The state senators formerly known as the IDC are now, for the most part, the IDCers formerly known as state senators. The eight-member splinter conference that has maintained a power-sharing deal with the GOP in the upper chamber found itself all but routed, its numbers reduced to two. Most stunning of all was the defeat of Bronx state Sen. Jeffrey Klein, once one of New York’s biggest power-brokers, at the hands of first-time candidate Alessandra Biaggi. Gone too are Upper Manhattan state Sen. Marisol Alcantara, Brooklyn state Sen. Jesse Hamilton and Queens state Sen. Jose Peralta.
Losers by extension are all the interests that aligned with Klein and his compatriots, including the Greater New York Hospital Association, private carting outfits, the Real Estate Board of New York and charter schools.
Landlords: Klein wasn’t the only wrong horse REBNY bet on. Sources informed Crain’s in the final days of the campaign that the trade group’s chief lobbyist and executive vice president Jim Whelan had begun making fundraising calls for the attorney general hopeful Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. The organization had, up to that point, carefully spread its money around as a kind of insurance policy. But big developers like Related Cos. and the Durst Organization sank a lot of money into the centrist candidate’s bid and will see no return on their investment.
But things aren’t as bad for business as they might have been as victorious Public Advocate Letitia James did receive some money from the sector, despite having spent years putting out an annual “worst landlord” list. And one small Queens-based firm helped fund a political action committee on her behalf.
But when it comes to renewing and reforming the city’s rent regulations next year, the new state Senate almost certainly will not.
Environmentalists: Her pact with Republicans notwithstanding, Alcantara was one of the most liberal legislators in Albany. Her opponent, former city Councilman Robert Jackson, played a crucial role in delaying the city’s ban on plastic styrofoam containers as president of the industry-backed Restaurant Action Alliance and as a lobbyist for the Dart Container corporation. The state Legislature will most likely have a greener cast overall next session, but Jackson’s crushing victory proves that Democratic candidates don’t need a speckless record on eco-issues.
The Working Families Party: Yes, the WFP was part of the left-leaning coalition that toppled the IDC. But it’s been a rough few months for the once-union-backed third party, ever since Cuomo convinced labor to pull its support in April.
Moderates: The collapse of Klein’s IDC, and the leftward pressure Nixon exerted on Cuomo, promises that little will remain of the governor’s centrist 2010 platform. Bipartisanship is out of style, as Democrats learned this year that collaborating with Republicans can mean risking a loss of office. For business, this means that lawmakers may fear to put up anything that looks like a regulatory rollback on the real estate or financial sectors or suggesting reforms to the state’s stringent labor laws and generous public employee compensation plans.
But the Democrats can’t just hold on to the seats they have: to achieve the dream of solid-blue government in New York, they’ll need to take down Republicans in center-right districts on Long Island. Democratic candidates there may try pulling the party back toward the middle. Their chances don’t look good, though.
Democratic Party establishment: Also known as Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The notoriously control-obsessed chief executive must have fretted that he might spend the next four years with Jumaane Williams as his lieutenant governor hounding him for his deviations from liberal doctrine, or with Teachout probing his administration and economic development deals from the state attorney general’s office. But Cuomo’s favorites, Kathy Hochul and Public Advocate Letitia James, triumphed. Cuomo remains the king of New York State, without a serious threat to his authority in sight.
Organized labor: It was unions, public sector and private, that shored up the state party apparatus and churned out many of the votes that lifted James and Hochul to victory. It was the compact but powerful Hotel Trades Council that bankrolled and ran the independent expenditure that boosted Liu over Avella. It was service workers giant 32BJ that flipped on Klein and launched an ardent get-out-the-vote effort on Biaggi’s behalf. And those organizations doubtless expect the victors’ loyalty in exchange: more favorable state contracts, more infrastructure spending, more government action against non-union employers. However wounded by the Trump administration and the Supreme Court, labor remains a vital force in state politics.
Marijuana, medical and otherwise: The morning after a jury convicted Cuomo’s former economic development overseer on bid-rigging charges in July, the governor’s office appeared to blow smoke by releasing a report in support of legalizing marijuana. Faced with Nixon’s proudly pro-pot platform, the decidedly un-mellow incumbent admitted to using the drug himself as a young man and called its use a personal decision. The political action committee of medicinal reefer start-up MedMen packed $65,000 into Cuomo’s coffers and another $21,000 into James’ successful campaign to become the state’s chief narc.
Citywide officials: City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Council Speaker Corey Johnson put their smart money on the anti-IDC candidates, burnishing their images among liberals as they look toward running for higher office in 2021. Mayor Bill de Blasio came off looking soft for refusing to endorse anybody for a statewide office, but that decision may have some upside. Rather than waste his limited political capital on a sure loser like Nixon, or on the uncertain contests for lieutenant governor and attorney general, the mayor backed just two of the candidates targeting Klein’s allies, both of whom won. The mayor has been chronically short for allies in Albany, so that may soon change.