New York political predictions for 2019

Hakeem Jeffries
Hakeem Jeffries
AP/Shutterstock
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

New York political predictions for 2019

A look ahead at the year to come, from Amazon to the Democratic state Senate to the public advocate race.
December 31, 2018

The past year kept political reporters very busy, especially during election season. A blue wave gave Democrats control of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the party overwhelming regained control of the state Senate for the first time since 2010 and now hold 39 seats in the 63-seat chamber. Before that, seven sitting Democratic state senators lost challengers on their left during primaries, six of them members of the Independent Democratic Conference, which officially disbanded in April. And nobody expected a young bartender to defeat Rep. Joseph Crowley, the Queens party boss who was in position to be a potential House speaker, in a primary. But Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will soon be sworn in as Crowley packs up his office.

While there were certainly many surprises that came of 2018, not everything was totally unexpected. Last year, City & State asked political insiders to make their predictions – and some came true. Two foresaw Cynthia Nixon’s upstart challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But most incorrectly predicted that congestion pricing would pass. At least one prediction about the year’s biggest political surprise came true – that Democrats would take the House.

Now, Nixon is so 2018. The coming year promises a whole new set of issues, ranging from Amazon to the 2020 presidential race to the actions of the new Democratic state Senate. To get a sense of how some of these issues may play out – and what surprises may be in store – City & State reached out to half a dozen political insiders from both sides of the aisle to get their takes.

Dr. Christina Greer

Associate professor of political science at Fordham University

What stalled state legislation will Democrats pass and sign into law in the upcoming session?

Some sort of compromise on marijuana legislation. They may legalize but not decriminalize which will further exacerbate wealth and racial inequities.

Will Amazon’s new headquarters in Queens move forward – as is?

Unfortunately yes. Rents will continue to increase and (New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio) and Cuomo will outwardly claim to have concerns while using back channels to move this horribly unfair deal forward.

Who will be New York City’s next public advocate?

(New York City Councilman) Jumaane Williams based on name recognition, the timing of the election, (Brooklyn) support, progressive agenda, and his recent (lieutenant governor) race success.

What will be the biggest political surprise of 2019?

The number of people announcing they will run for mayor in 2021.

Which New Yorkers will announce their presidential candidacy?

Hard to say. Cuomo, (U.S. Sen. Kirsten) Gillibrand, (former New York City Mayor Michael) Bloomberg and lots of random millionaires are all considering. If I had to guess, I’d say Gillibrand will throw her hat in the ring.

Which political up-and-comer will you be watching and why?

(Rep.) Hakeem Jeffries. Now that he has a leadership role in the House, coupled with (U.S. Sen. Charles) Schumer’s almost complete silence these past two years, I could see Jeffries thinking even bigger as the months progress. Schumer has Wall Street support, but that may not be enough to keep legitimate challengers from eyeing his seat.

Bill O’Reilly

Republican political consultant, partner at The November Team

What stalled state legislation will Democrats pass and sign into law in the upcoming session?

The Child Victims Act, recreational marijuana and 8-5 that sports betting goes through. But single payer will stall under microscopic view.

Will Amazon’s new headquarters in Queens move forward – as is?

Small amenities will be shaken loose from the Amazon forest, but the Cuomo-de Blasio deal will remain essentially intact. Queens will move forward, too, despite protests to the contrary.

Who will be New York City’s next public advocate?

Jumaane Williams. He's extremely talented, and everyone now knows how to spell his name.

What will be the biggest political surprise of 2019?

President Trump will announce that he's not standing for re-election in 2020. Nikki Haley will be recruited over Mike Pence.

Which New Yorkers will announce their presidential candidacy?

Michael Bloomberg.

Which political up-and-comer will you be watching and why?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, because she's always on T.V.

Andre Richardson

Democratic political consultant, principal at Paragon Strategies

What stalled state legislation will Democrats pass and sign into law in the upcoming session?

It’s time for big talk from the past to turn into bold action in the present. To put that in historical context, the last time Democrats had this much power in Albany the Yankees had just won their first World Series in 1923.

Strong voting reform measures should be items one, two and three on the state Legislature’s agenda. New Yorkers should have an opportunity to cast their ballot in a way that’s reflective of 2019 and not 1965. I’m cautiously optimistic that voting reform measures will finally see the light of day in Albany. The governor and the leaders in the Assembly and Senate have all signaled an interest in moving forward with automatic voter registration and early voting. However, early voting without including at least two weekends could potentially be seen as a false start.

Will Amazon’s new headquarters in Queens move forward – as is?

The long-term potential of the positive economic impact for New York City as a whole will be weighed down by the clandestine manner in which the negotiations took place. The problem with the Amazon deal other than the puzzling financial generosity is that the governor and mayor are not viewed as appropriate shepherds for a deal this size at this time during this political climate of inclusiveness and transparency.

Which New Yorkers will announce their presidential candidacy?

Sen. Gillibrand is poised to be the first progressive and top tier democratic candidate to announce a presidential bid from New York. The unpredictability and uncertainty of our national climate will also give Michael Bloomberg the confidence to finally begin exploring a presidential run. He has a great team behind him, worked on common sense gun control and is committed to environmental issues. As an example, he pledged to fund $4.5 million to the the Paris Climate agreement on behalf of the United States. This is bold and will raise intrigue among millennials.

Which political up-and-comer will you be watching and why?

Since 2012 Rep. Hakeem Jeffries has shown a unique ability to climb the ranks of leadership in the United States House of Representatives while maintaining an intimate level of connectivity in his congressional district in Brooklyn. Recently elected House Democratic Caucus Chair, he is poised to become the first black speaker of the House. With the ability to quote Biggie Smalls on the house floor, shout out Lil Kim, and simultaneously pass historical and meaningful criminal justice legislation while President Trump sits at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, his ascension shows no limits.

John McArdle

Communications consultant, former state Senate GOP spokesman

What stalled state legislation will Democrats pass and sign into law in the upcoming session?

Mostly low-hanging fruit initially – (Reproductive Health Act), criminal justice reform, ballot access and voting reforms to name a few. The budget will include everything else, with the possible exception of rent control and other tenant-friendly legislation, which will be enacted before they adjourn.

Will Amazon’s new headquarters in Queens move forward – as is?

Amazon will move forward. The governor has staked a lot on getting them to come to New York City. There may be some tweaking of the deal, but not enough to scare them away.

Who will be New York City’s next public advocate?

It's wide open and anyone's to win. Minor parties like the NYC Democratic Socialists and Working Families Party will play outsized roles because it's a special election in February.  Would put my money on Jumaane Williams. Best long shot is (New York City Councilman) Eric Ulrich in a crowded field.

What will be the biggest political surprise of 2019

There will be many. Probably the biggest surprise will come out of Washington, though Albany may have a few. The governor will continue to dominate politically and governmentally and anything that upsets that dynamic would be a big surprise. The wild card may be the freshmen class of Democrat (state) senators who will make up 40 percent of the new Senate majority.  

Which New Yorkers will announce their presidential candidacy?

Sen. Gillibrand and Mayor de Blasio. Gov. Cuomo will continue to do everything presidential candidates do except announce that he's running.    

Which political up-and-comer will you be watching and why?  

(State) Sen. Fred Akshar. He's immensely popular in his district and among his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Part of the Senate Republican leadership, he will play a key role in helping them regroup and regain their footing.

Hank Sheinkopf

Democratic political consultant, president of Sheinkopf Communications

What stalled state legislation will Democrats pass and sign into law in the upcoming session?

Rent regulation.

Will Amazon’s new headquarters in Queens move forward – as is?

Yes.

Who will be New York City’s next public advocate?

(Assemblywoman) Latrice Walker or (Assemblyman) Daniel O’Donnell.

What will be the biggest political surprise of 2019?

A New York City (district attorney) resigns.

Which New Yorkers will announce their presidential candidacy?

Gillibrand.

Which political up-and-comer will you be watching and why?

(New York City Council Speaker) Corey Johnson.

Ross Barkan

Freelance journalist and former state Senate candidate

What stalled state legislation will Democrats pass and sign into law in the upcoming session?

DREAM Act, Child Victims Act, Reproductive Health Act, some form of campaign finance reform, GENDA and early voting. They will pass the low-hanging fruit. Tougher bills Gov. Cuomo doesn't like, including the New York Health Act, will have a much harder time becoming law.

Will Amazon’s new headquarters in Queens move forward – as is?

I honestly don't know. I've written critically on Amazon – both on the company itself and the process which brought it to New York City – and people who follow me can imagine where I fall on HQ2. But I don't underestimate Gov. Cuomo's cunning or his lawyers. It's possible the project can be derailed by the Public Authorities Control Board. I'm also not optimistic the deal can be killed altogether. Perhaps Amazon finds a way to make further concessions that placate RWDSU or some elected officials. Those on the left who see Amazon as an embodiment of all that has gone wrong in corporate America will never be placated, and rightfully so.

Who will be New York City’s next public advocate?

I'm hedging again! In January, a community center in Brooklyn I helped co-found, Solidarity Space, will be partnering with Bklyner to host one-on-one live interviews with a decent number of the 25-odd contenders. I hesitate to make a firm pick here because it's such an unprecedented electoral event - a citywide special election in the winter. Jumaane Williams is the favorite, if you're gaming it out on paper, but he's not a tremendous front-runner. He has real demographic advantages (African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans in Brooklyn are a key bloc for any citywide race) and he built up enough institutional progressive goodwill from taking on Kathy Hochul. I'll guarantee the next public advocate runs for mayor someday.

What will be the biggest political surprise of 2019?

No one important in New York politics get indicted. This prediction will probably not come to pass, but ya never know.

Which New Yorkers will announce their presidential candidacy?

Kirsten Gillibrand. Madison High's own Bernie Sanders. Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio will not run.

Which political up-and-comer will you be watching and why?

This is cheating since he's been in the game a long time, but he's new to this elected office: State Sen. John Liu. What a fascinating political career he's led. First Asian-American (New York) City councilman and citywide elected official; serious mayoral contender; fundraising scandal and fall from grace; redemption as a progressive hero who slayed a member of the IDC after deciding, like a week before the petitioning deadline, to run for office again. (He also happens to be the first Asian-American state senator ever.) There's been no one like him in New York political history. I've known him a long time and he's very tight-lipped when he wants to be – and he'll probably be annoyed at me for writing this – but I do believe John Liu runs for higher office again. He'll be 52 next month. He's seven years younger than his successor, (New York City Comptroller) Scott Stringer. He has a new lifeline and an intriguing new subcommittee on New York City education. Keep your eyes on John Liu

Rebecca C. Lewis
is a staff reporter at City & State.
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