Commentary: The importance of the primary election

The primary thing: vote

Commentary by Ted Potrikus

Otsego County and the whole of New York stand on the cusp of an eventful election season that begins with the June 28 primaries for the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, and state Assembly.

Because we can’t have nice things in the Empire State, we’ll have a second round of primaries on August 23; those are for state Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. And also a special election on August 23 to fill out the last few months of now-Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado’s term in the 19th Congressional District. Then another election for the 19th CD in November — in a district that will have entirely different boundaries thanks to redistricting, so one of the candidates for the special election for the 19th on August 23 is not running for reelection to that district in November, but instead will seek a full two-year term to the state’s 18th Congressional District and leave two others to duke it out for the 19th.

Thank you, state legislators who hijacked the voter-approved 2014 amendment establishing non-partisan redistricting, redrew lines you thought your party-appointed state Court of Appeals would uphold, and then whined when you got caught with your hands in the constitutional cookie jar and the Court correctly said “no thanks.” (Even their Assembly district lines got the judicial heave-ho last week, so we’ll have new ones in 2024!)

Calendar confusion aside, primaries are important. Just ask Joe Crowley. He’s the former Democrat Congressman from Queens who spent all his time a couple of years ago lining up support for his planned run against Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House instead of campaigning in his home district for his primary against some unknown kid named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Whoops.

Elise Stefanik’s staff has been stuffing my e-mail inbox with announcements touting summer primary victories for House candidates from other states who have her support. I get it – as ugly as it may seem from the outside, this is how one rises through the ranks in Washington, D.C. The halls of Congress are a crowded place with at least 535 voices clamoring to rise above the din. Those whom one supports in a primary will be those to whom one turns for reciprocal support when it’s time for leadership votes.

But my goodness she’s supporting Carl Palladino out in Buffalo in his August 23 primary for Congress. I’ll do my best to keep from name-calling, but a buffoon is a buffoon. This guy, in 2021 (2021!), called Adolf Hitler “the kind of leader we need today.”

If that’s not an automatic disqualifier from holding any office, I don’t know what is. It also should be an automatic disqualifier from endorsements from anyone. And that’s without counting up all the other nonsense things the guy has said and done during his “political career.”

The lesson in the end, to me, is this: failure to vote in the primary leads to situations the general electorate may not want. It used to be – and to a certain extent it still is — that party operatives tend to be the people who show up on these random primary days and party operatives tend to obey the party bosses. In the case of Crowley vs. Ocasio-Cortez, though, her team was able to activate enough voters to push her over the top in a primary election in which only a tiny percentage of eligible voters showed up and, overnight, turned her into a political rock star. Mr. Crowley and the party that endorsed him failed to turn out the vote that sticky June day in 2018.

June 28, then, is an important voting day, as will be August 23. Elsewhere in this week’s paper, we have a story about the great work of the Cooperstown and Oneonta area League(s) of Women Voters and their on-line, easy-to-navigate election guide. They’re doing what they can to demystify a voting process that Albany seems bound-and-determined to keep as cloudy and obfuscated as possible (despite noble press releases pledging more fairness in state elections). Please take a look, and we’ll see you at the polls!

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