Politics of New York

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The Politics of New York State tend to be more left-leaning than in most of the rest of the United States, with in recent decades a solid majority of Democratic voters, concentrated in New York City and its suburbs, and in the cities of Buffalo, Rochester and Albany. Republican voters, in the minority, are concentrated in more rural Upstate New York, particularly in the Adirondack Mountains, the Finger Lakes area and in parts of the Hudson Valley. Despite the imbalance in registration, New York voters have shown a willingness to elect relatively centrist Republicans to local offices, though rarely in recent years to the Presidency.

The balance of the parties was formerly less decided, with a large Democratic majority in populous New York City, but Republican dominance elsewhere. In recent years, with the political transformation of former Republican strongholds of Long Island, the Hudson Valley and the Syracuse area, New York has grown more reliably Democratic.

In particular, Nassau County and Westchester County currently have Democrat county executives for only the second-time in a few decades.

Democrats dominate the State Assembly, whose current speaker is Sheldon Silver of lower Manhattan. Republicans hold a narrow edge in the State Senate, but have lost many seats in recent years because of the aforementioned political realignments of the New York City suburbs and Syracuse. In fact, it is now considered possible that Democrats could win a majority in the State Senate in 2006 or 2008. This was inconceivable in 2000. The majority leader is Joseph Bruno of the Albany suburbs. The minority leader is David Paterson of Manhattan, who is running for Lieutenant Governor in 2006.

Over the last century, New York elected Democratic Senators Robert Wagner and Robert F. Kennedy as well as Conservative Senator James Buckley. Democrats Al Smith, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and W. Averell Harriman served as governor, as did Republicans Thomas Dewey and Nelson Rockefeller, who was elected four times. Although a staunch progressive, Republican Teddy Roosevelt was Governor of New York before being elected Vice President in 1900.

The current Governor of New York is a Republican, George Pataki. He was reelected by large margins in 1998 and 2002, after only narrowly defeating incumbent Democrat Mario Cuomo in 1994. Both U.S. Senators are Democrats, Chuck Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton. However, it wasn't too long ago when New York had Republicans in high political offices Republican Senator Alfonse D'Amato served until he was defeated in 1998 and before him longtime Senator Jacob Javits also served and was also a Republican, although he ran as a Liberal in 1980. Republican Congressmen William E. Miller and Jack Kemp were both from New York and were running mates for Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Bob Dole in 1996 respectively. Despite the strong Democratic presence in New York City, Republican Rudolph Giuliani served two terms as mayor, and Michael Bloomberg was elected as a Republican twice, the first time being in 2001 and then again in 2005.

New York politics have recently been dominated by downstate areas such as Westchester County, New York City and Long Island, where a majority of the state's population resides. New York has not elected a governor from upstate since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1928 (although the current governor George Pataki is from northern Westchester County) Roosevelt was from Hyde Park. No US Senator has come from upstate since Charles Goodell, who served from 1968-1970 (Goodell was from Jamestown), however, Goodell was appointed and never elected meaning no US Senator has been elected from upstate since Kenneth Keating in 1958. Keating was from the Rochester area.

[edit] New York and national politics

In the past, New York was a powerful swing state with the most votes in the U.S. Electoral College, forcing presidential candidates to invest a large amount of money and time campaigning there.

New York State gave small margins of victory to Democrats John F. Kennedy in 1960, Hubert Humphrey in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Michael Dukakis in 1988, as well as Republicans Herbert Hoover in 1928, Thomas Dewey in 1948 and Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Today, although New York is still the third largest prize in the Electoral College with 31 votes, it is usually considered an uncontested solid blue state. Republican presidential candidates have not made serious efforts in the state in the last four elections, effectively ceding the state to the Democrats each time. In addition, despite having a Republican governor for 12 years, New York appears to have trended even more Democratic. Schumer's victory over Republican Al D'Amato in 1998, for instance, gave the Democrats both of the state's Senate seats for the first time since 1892. In 2004, Schumer won the largest victory ever recorded for a candidate running statewide in New York, carrying all but one of the state's counties.

New York's delegation to the House of Representatives leans strongly Democratic. In fact, Republicans have not held a majority of New York House seats since the 1950's. With the defeats of Republican incumbents Sue Kelly and John Sweeney and a Democratic victory in the open seat of Sherwood Boehlert in 2006, New York will send 23 Democrats and six Republicans to the 110th Congress. The number of Republicans is less than half of the number New York sent to the House of Representatives only a decade ago. Democrats hold all but two seats in the New York City area and hold every House seat in the Hudson Valley.

This recent Democratic dominance may be explained by the increasing conservatism of the national Republican Party. With few exceptions, upstate New York has historically been dominated by a moderate brand of Republicanism. Many voters in traditional Republican strongholds such as Long Island, Syracuse and the Hudson Valley have been willing to support Democratic candidates. The Democrats already have a nearly unbreakable hold on New York City, Rochester, the Capital District and Buffalo, neither of which have supported a Republican for president in decades. New York City, for instance, has not been carried by a Republican presidential candidate since 1924.

New York politicians have historically tended to loom large on the national political scene, reflecting the importance of their state, and more presidential candidates have been governor of New York than anything else. Although local politicians are still often prominently featured in the national media, because of New York's current unique political orientation they face some special challenges when seeking national office.

One challenge all potential candidates would face is the state's relatively late primaries, and the strong possibility that a party's nomination could be effectively decided before New York selects its many delegates to the nominating convention.

Prominent Republicans like Governor George Pataki and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani tend to be moderate on most social issues. This poses substantial difficulties in more conservative states, especially in the South. Even if a New York Republican could get past the primary, the possibility of winning a very Democratic home state in the general election would still be a great challenge, but also a tremendous opportunity.

Prominent Democrats, like Senators Schumer and Clinton, though often among the leaders of the national party, would have little to offer in home-state advantage in a general election where the state is already presumed Democratic. Indeed, it would be considered a serious tactical and strategic blunder for a Democratic presidential candidate to select a running mate from New York. They would also be presumed as being too liberal for the tastes of other states.

Politics of New York

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