November 2, 2010
In New York, a Cuomo Rules the State Once Again
By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM
Andrew M. Cuomo, whose career in government appeared all but over just eight years ago, was elected the 56th governor of New York on Tuesday, a stunning comeback for the scion of one of the state’s legendary political families.
Mr. Cuomo, the state’s Democratic attorney general, won a decisive victory over his Republican opponent, Carl P. Paladino, a Buffalo businessman whose strident and often belligerent rhetoric failed to gain traction among voters, exit polls showed.
The state’s sitting senators, Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Charles E. Schumer, easily won re-election. Results had not yet been reported for the contests for attorney general and state comptroller.
In Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, the state attorney general and Democratic stalwart, captured the United States Senate seat being vacated by Christopher J. Dodd after staving off a fierce challenge from Linda E. McMahon, a Republican and former pro wrestling executive who spent $40 million on her insurgent campaign.
The expensive and hard-fought contest was considered a national bellwether on a night where Republicans are hoping to make big gains in Congress on the strength of voter resentment toward Washington.
But while Republican challengers have already picked up Senate seats in Florida and Kentucky, Mr. Blumenthal may have benefited from heavy Democratic turnout: several polling places in Bridgeport, one of the state’s major Democratic strongholds, repeatedly ran out of ballots on Tuesday, prompting officials to extend voting hours there until 10 p.m.
Mr. Blumenthal was leading Ms. McMahon by seven percentage points with 6 percent of precincts reporting.
Recent polls that show State Senator Eric T. Schneiderman, the Democrat, with a thin lead over Daniel M. Donovan Jr., the Republican district attorney from Staten Island, in the race to succeed Mr. Cuomo as attorney general.
In the state comptroller’s race, Thomas P. DiNapoli, the incumbent, is trying to eke out a victory against a dark-horse Republican opponent, the former financier Harry J. Wilson. Polls showed that race also tightening in recent weeks.
Voters in New York City, where a new electronic voting system made its debut this year, are also being asked to decide whether politicians should be limited to two consecutive terms, a move that would reverse the legislation that allowed Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to pursue his third term in City Hall.
Fears about the state of the economy could be the determinant in many regional races on Tuesday, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, a consortium of the major television networks and The Associated Press.
Half of New York voters said they were very worried about the state of the economy, although Mr. Paladino’s supporters were more likely to express this sentiment. Half of the voters surveyed in New York described Mr. Cuomo as an honest candidate; only a quarter said the same of Mr. Paladino.
More than half said they approved of President Obama’s job performance, but fewer than 1 in 5 of Mr. Paladino’s supporters agreed with that statement, according to the polls. About half of New York voters said the government was performing too many services that would be better left to businesses and individuals.
Mr. Paladino arrived at his polling place on Tuesday morning holding hands with his wife, Cathy, as they entered a church basement in south Buffalo a little after 11 a.m. The couple left their dog, Duke, waiting in a black sport utility vehicle.
“We’re going to win this today,” Mr. Paladino told reporters after casting his ballot. “People want change, and they know where they’re going to get it.”
Asked if he would miss the stresses of the campaign trail, he laughed. “I’m not a great campaigner,” he said, adding that the process had been “treacherous” and “confusing” for him. He vowed never to do it again, even if he lost on Tuesday.
“No. More. Elections!” he called out, enunciating each word. “This is it.” And his plans for the rest of the day? A prayer service, Mr. Paladino said, followed by a nap.
A few miles away, in West Seneca, N.Y., support from voters for the local candidate appeared to be spotty.
“He has preyed on the fears of people,” said Nancy Seel, 71, a retired teacher, after casting her ballot. Her husband, Donald Seel, 82, objected to the more colorful speeches given by Mr. Paladino: “I wouldn’t use such language around a lady.”
Other voters said they could embrace Mr. Paladino, despite his flaws. “I know he’s not perfect,” Sylvia Mastrocovo, 68, said, “but he’s not running for pope, he’s running for governor.”
Mr. Cuomo, meanwhile, spent the morning at his residence in Mount Kisco, where he voted with his companion, the television cooking personality Sandra Lee. He urged his supporters to head to the polls and ignore reports that he was on his way to a blowout victory. “These polls are just guesses,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Nobody knows who’s going to come out to vote.”
In Yonkers, Rudolph B. Steward, Jr., 60, a military veteran and retired postal service worker, said he voted for Mr. Cuomo because he believed the Democrat would not cut his disability benefits. He said he feared what would happen if Mr. Paladino were to be elected governor.
“There was nothing about Cuomo that made me vote for him,” Mr. Stewart said. “I just did it to fight the policies of the Republicans.”
Reporting was contributed by David W. Chen, Marjorie Connelly, Elizabeth A. Harris and Nate Schweber.