On November 6, 2018, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was re-elected to a third term as Governor of New York.
Gov. Cuomo cruised tore-election, with unofficial figures showing that he received 58% of the vote. Republican challenger Marc Molinaro won 36% of the vote, while third-party candidates Howie Hawkins (Green), Larry Sharpe (Libertarian), and Stephanie Miner (Serve America Movement) each received less than 2% of the vote, but exceeded the 50,000-vote threshold necessary to give their respective parties automatic ballot status for the next four years. New York Republicans have not won a gubernatorial election since Gov. George Pataki won a third term in 2002.
The Governor’s victory confirms that New York Republicans have become irrelevant in statewide elections and that the Party’s strategy is flawed. Republicans have not won a statewide race since 2002. In 2006 and in 2010, the GOP establishment’s preferred candidates for Governor (William Weld and Rick Lazio) were defeated by more conservative Republicans (John Faso and Carl Paladino, respectively). In 2014, the Republican establishment’s enthusiasm for candidate Rob Astorino was tepid at best. This year, the establishment got its favored candidate, pushing Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco aside and recruiting Molinaro instead. (The establishment’s first choice, businessman Harry Wilson, chose not to run.) Despite following the New York GOP’s conventional wisdom and running a noncontroversial, centrist campaign, Molinaro received a smaller percentage of the vote than the conservative Astorino did in 2014 (Astorino received 40%). The conventional wisdom didn’t work.
To regain statewide relevance, the Republican Party would need to go back to the drawing board and realize that soft-pedaling the principles its upstate conservative base cares about isn’t a recipe for success. Instead, the Party must find candidates who can generate enthusiasm upstate and can also grow the Party by persuading downstaters that conservative governance will work for them.