Governor Cuomo is pushing to upend the presidential primary calendar, making New York jump close to the head of the line by having voters head to the polls in February instead of late April, sources tell NY1.
Cuomo is considering vetoing a bill that would set the presidential primary on April 28, putting it just weeks after the pivotal Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary instead.
As a sweetener from Cuomo, sources say New York would also move its legislative primaries for state Senate and Assembly, currently scheduled for June 23, 2020, to coincide with a February presidential primary, potentially helping incumbents survive any challenges.
Sources tell NY1 Governor Cuomo and top legislative leaders have recently held discussions about a potential move.
But a lot would have to happen to make this a reality.
To begin with, a special legislative session would have to be called, bringing lawmakers back to Albany this month. They would then have to vote on new legislation establishing a February date for both the state and presidential primaries. Then, petitioning to get on the ballot would have to begin as early as October.
Such a move could be looked upon as an "incumbent protection program." The Democratic Socialists of America, the Working Families Party and other progressive insurgent groups are currently interviewing and recruiting candidates to challenge long-time incumbents in both houses, but especially in the Assembly. The accelerated timetable would likely work against them and favor more established incumbents who can more easily get their campaigns up and running, since they have done it so many times before.
The February primary date would also boost overall turnout for local races if it was aligned with the presidential, and that could also help incumbents. The conventional wisdom used to be that low-turnout elections help the establishment. Not so anymore, as we've seen with Cuomo boosting turnout in the 2018 gubernatorial primary to beat challenger Cynthia Nixon, and on the flip side, the low-turnout race in the Queens district attorney primary, which lifted insurgent candidate Tiffany Caban to within inches of beating Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. The new thinking is that high-turnout elections favor better-known electeds and that low-turnout ones can lead to victories for a motivated few.
Finally, the new timetable would work much better for the current crop of lawmakers because it would not interfere with the legislative calendar as much. Lawmakers are in their districts during those months, not in Albany. And during January and February, scheduled session days are far more infrequent than in the months of March, May and June.
However, this would likely rattle the Democratic National Committee, which has established the early primary states as Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. New York could potentially face penalties like a failure to have all its delegates seated at the convention, although one Democrat points out, "I sincerely doubt Cuomo cares about that."
So how is all of this going over? One legislative source says that there "doesn't seem to be much of an appetite" to call a special session and make this change. Another said "it would be a major impediment to challengers that would backfire." Still another added, "It's not outside the realm."
Mike Whyland, a spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, says, "There is no consideration whatsoever to moving legislative and Congressional primaries." Mike Murphy, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, issued the exact same statement. Neither of the leaders said anything about potentially moving the presidential primary. Cuomo's team had no comment either.
It wouldn't be the first time in Albany that an idea was shot down by the leaders, only to get resurrected in some other distorted form.
Either way, it's a pretty wild idea. And it was discussed at the highest levels.