Campaigns & Elections

What you need to know about 2019’s elections

The most important New York election races in 2019.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks before Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signs a bill into law banning single use plastic shopping bags in New York State at a ceremony held on Earth Day.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks before Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signs a bill into law banning single use plastic shopping bags in New York State at a ceremony held on Earth Day. Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

This year’s election cycle may not have the “blue wave” buzz of 2018, the crowded dramatics of the 2020 presidential race or the intrigue of replacing New York City’s term-limited mayor – and many other city posts – in 2021, but there are still some key contests this year. From a heated election to replace the late Queens District Attorney Richard Brown to a small-town mayor’s bid to keep his seat while facing a seven-count felony indictment in federal court, 2019 is not the year to skip the polls.

This year also marks a major change in New York’s election calendar. Prior to 2012, New York held both federal and state primaries in September, but in 2012 a federal judge ruled that the state had to move its primaries for congressional seats to June, after the U.S. Justice Department argued that September primaries didn’t allow enough time for military and overseas voters to get absentee ballots for the general election. Since then, New York has held bifurcated primaries, with federal elections in June and state ones in September. When Democrats took control of the state Senate earlier this year, however, a slate of election reforms passed, including consolidating state and federal elections in June.

With this year’s primaries just weeks away, and the Nov. 5 general election following months later, City & State identified the biggest – and most interesting – elections to watch and the candidates in the running so far.

New York City Council – 45th District

When: June 25 (Democratic Party primary) and Nov. 5 (general)

Incumbent: Farah Louis

Who’s on the ballot: Farah Louis, Monique Chandler-Waterman, L. Rickie Tulloch, Xamayla Rose, Jovia A. Radix, Anthony Alexis, Victor Jordan and Adina Sash

The story: Not long after winning the seat vacated by current New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams in a May special election, City Councilwoman Farah Louis will face a rematch with Monique Chandler-Waterman in the Democratic primary later this month, along with the six others. Chandler-Waterman finished that contest in second place, with 30% of the vote to Louis’ 42%. All eight candidates from the special election will appear on the Democratic primary ballot, but Radix, Tulloch and Sash either suspended their campaigns or told City & State that they don’t plan to actively campaign. The victor in the primary will then face a third election – the general on Nov. 5 – although the matchup that matters is in June.

District Attorney – Queens County

When: June 25 (Democratic primary) and Nov. 5 (general)

Incumbent: Vacant

Who’s on the ballot: Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Gregory L. Lasak, Betty Lugo, New York City Councilman Rory I. Lancman, Jose L. Nieves, Tiffany Cabán and Mina Quinto Malik.

The story: When Richard Brown died in May, the Queens district attorney seat opened up for the first time in nearly three decades, and the competition to fill it is ramping up among a slate of Democratic candidates. As the race heats up, Cabán, a progressive public defender, has basked in the glow of several profiles and the endorsement of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, while Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has garnered the most mainstream support – including from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

New York City Public Advocate

When: Nov. 5 (general)

Incumbent: Jumaane Williams

Who’s on the ballot: Jumaane Williams and New York City Councilman Joseph Borelli

The story: The special election to replace state Attorney General Letitia James in her former role as New York City public advocate was not unlike the current Queens district attorney race in its fervor and size. Early front-runner Jumaane Williams, then a city councilman, beat 16 other candidates in February. Williams has brought his spirited activism to the office, but he shouldn’t get too comfortable, as he faces another election in November. So far, Republican City Councilman Joseph Borelli plans to challenge Williams, though neither will face a primary in June.

State Senate – 57th District

When: June 25 (Republican Party primary) and Nov. 5 (general)

Incumbent: Vacant

Who’s on the ballot: George Borrello, Curtis Crandall and Austin Morgan

The story: After 14 years in the state Senate, Republican Catharine Young vacated her seat earlier this year to take a job at the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech. Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello and Allegany County Legislature Chairman Curtis Crandall will vie for the Republican nomination in June, while Austin Morgan, a 22-year-old graduate of Cornell University, is running unopposed as a Democrat.

County Executive – Erie County

When: June 25 (Independence Party primary) and Nov. 5 (general)

Incumbent: Mark Poloncarz

Who’s on the ballot: Mark Poloncarz, Lynne Dixon and Grace Christiansen

The story: Democrat Mark Poloncarz has served as Erie County executive since 2012, and Independence Party member and Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon is mounting a challenge. But while Dixon is also running as a Republican with the support of the county GOP, she’ll face competition for the Independence Party line in June from Grace Christiansen. Christiansen’s challenge has an air of political party machinations, as Dixon and Republicans have accused Poloncarz of orchestrating Christiansen’s candidacy as another obstacle for Dixon.

County ExecutiveMonroe County

When: June 25 (Independence Party primary) and Nov. 5 (general)

Incumbent: Cheryl Dinolfo

Who’s on the ballot: Cheryl Dinolfo and Adam Bello

The story: Erie County isn’t the only locale preparing for a fight over the Independence Party line. Republican Cheryl Dinolfo, Monroe County’s executive, and Democratic challenger and Monroe County Clerk Adam Bello went to court over who will enter the Nov. 5 election with the backing of the Independence Party. The cause of confusion? Bello had the backing of the state Independence Party, while Dinolfo had support from the Monroe County Independence Party. A Supreme Court justice ruled that a primary on June 25 would settle the matter of who gets to appear on the general election ballot with the Independence Party line.

County Executive – Suffolk County

Incumbent: Steve Bellone

When: Nov. 5 (general)

Who’s on the ballot: Steve Bellone and Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy

The story: Two-term Democratic incumbent Steve Bellone is facing a challenge from the Republican county comptroller, John M. Kennedy. Bellone has campaigned with a financial edge, entering the race with $2 million in his campaign fund compared to Kennedy’s $120,000. But Kennedy is taking aim at Bellone’s financial record as he campaigns against the incumbent, citing downgrades of Suffolk County bonds under Bellone’s leadership as just one reason for an executive shake-up.

Mayor – Cohoes

When: June 25 (Democratic primary) and Nov. 5 (general)

Incumbent: Shawn Morse

Who’s on the ballot: Shawn Morse, Steve Napier, Peter Frangie and Bill Keeler

The story: Shawn Morse was first elected mayor of Cohoes in 2015, and despite a cavalcade of controversy, he has managed to hold on to the post. Over the past few years, he has faced domestic abuse allegations from both his wife and another woman, which he denied. This year, he was indicted on seven felony counts in federal court for allegedly conspiring with his former campaign treasurer to use political funds for personal expenses. Cohoes Councilman Steve Napier, former city treasurer Peter Frangie and former State Police Maj. Bill Keeler will challenge Morse in the June Democratic primary, which will answer the question of whether the controversies are enough to unseat the mayor.

Mayor – Yonkers

When: June 25 (Democratic primary) and Nov. 5 (general)

Incumbent: Mike Spano

Who’s on the ballot: Mike Spano, Mario De Giorgio, Karen Beltran and Ivy Reeves

The story: Thanks to a recent rules change extending term limits, sitting Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano could be on track to be elected to a third term. But first, he has to make it out of June’s Democratic primary. Spano will be challenged by former Yonkers Parent-Teacher Association President Karen Beltran and community activist Ivy Reeves. Former City Council candidate Mario De Giorgio is running as a Republican with the backing of the Yonkers GOP.

Incumbets running unopposed:

District AttorneyBronx County

When: Nov. 5 (general)

Incumbent: Darcel Clark (D)

District AttorneyRichmond County

When: Nov. 5 (general)

Incumbent: Michael McMahon (D)

Judicial candidates

A number of judicial seats are up this year, but not all of them are filled the same way. A batch of state Supreme Court seats are open, including 15 vacancies in New York City, but voters won’t see potential justices on their ballots in June. Instead, they’ll get to pick “judicial delegates,” who then select the state Supreme Court judicial nominees at a convention in August to appear on the ballot in the November general election.

There are, however, bench seats that voters do get to directly elect, including for Civil Court and Surrogate’s Court. While judicial races don’t always grab the attention that contests for political office do, City & State singled out a few of the bigger races with competitive primaries that are worth watching.

Surrogate’s Court Judge – Kings County

When: June 25 (Democratic primary) and Nov. 5 (general)

Incumbent: Margarita López Torres

Who’s on the ballot: Margarita López Torres, Elena Baron and Meredith R. Jones

The story: New York’s Surrogate’s Court handles probate and estate proceedings, and Kings County’s Margarita López Torres wants to spend another 14 years there. López Torres was first elected to the Surrogate’s Court in Brooklyn in 2005 (for a 14-year term), and while she hasn’t always had the enthusiastic backing of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, she’s entering 2019 with support from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries andBrooklyn Democratic Party Chairman Frank Seddio. First, however, she’ll have to defeat Democratic challengers Elena Baron and Meredith R. Jones in June.

Civil Court JudgeKings County

When: June 25 (Democratic primary) and Nov. 5 (general)

Who’s on the ballot: D. Bernadette Neckles, Edward King

The story: Court attorney referee D. Bernadette Neckles and attorney Edward King will compete in June primary for a Civil Court bench seat in Brooklyn – a countywide race for the court that deals with civil cases involving $25,000 or less, like small claims and some landlord-tenant disputes.

Civil Court JudgeQueens County

When: June 25 (Democratic primary) and Nov. 5 (general)

Who’s on the ballot: Lumarie Maldonado-Cruz, Wyatt N. Gibbons

The story: Voters across Queens will have the chance to nominate a new judge to Civil Court, in a race that for some may recall Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset over Joseph Crowley. Lumarie Maldonado-Cruz has been compared to Ocasio-Cortez as an insurgent candidate challenging Wyatt N. Gibbons, who enjoys the backing of the Queens Democratic Party. Maldonado-Cruz, an attorney, also has roots in the Bronx, but she relocated to Queens in an effort to validate her campaign.