Cuomo defeats challenger Teachout in NY primary
(AP) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo emerged from the state's Democratic primary victorious but bruised on Tuesday, defeating a little-known law professor whose bare-bones campaign galvanized liberal dissatisfaction with Cuomo's pragmatic, centrist approach.
Unofficial returns late Tuesday gave Cuomo the victory over Teachout, a Fordham University law professor. With nearly 60 percent of precincts reporting, Cuomo had 59 percent compared to Teachout's 37 percent. Drug law activist Randy Credico came in third.
Cuomo largely ignored Teachout until the race's final days, avoiding the use of her name, refusing to debate and joking about his poor eyesight when she approached him at a recent parade.
But Teachout's criticism resonated with Democrats unhappy with Cuomo's support of business-friendly tax policies and his decision to abruptly dismantle an anti-corruption commission.
His campaign sought to kick Teachout off the ballot by challenging her state residency, a legal maneuver that many observers say backfired by giving her campaign greater exposure.
On Tuesday, Cuomo sought to dampen expectations, saying low-turnout primaries are not always representative of public opinion. After voting at a Presbyterian church in Mount Kisco, the governor was asked if he was aiming for a certain margin of victory.
"Fifty-one percent," the governor said. "Fifty-one percent works."
He said that in primaries, "turnout can be very determinate and sometimes it's not representative."
Teachout, referring to the Cuomo campaign's spending, said in Manhattan, "We know they think our chances are good because they've spent over $10 million recently to try and get rid of us."
Cuomo faces Republican Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins in November. Polls show him well in the lead.
Cuomo's running mate, former Buffalo congresswoman Kathy Hochul, also won Tuesday, beating Columbia University law professor Tim Wu.
While Teachout claimed endorsements from the Sierra Club, the National Organization for Women and the state's second largest public union, she struggled to gain name recognition and lacked the resources for a robust advertising strategy. Cuomo's campaign won support from other unions and political heavyweights including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
With Cuomo widely believed to hold national political ambitions, Teachout's campaign threatened to upend the governor's hope to win re-election by big margins. But with broad name recognition and the support of labor unions and many everyday Democrats, Cuomo's victory was expected.
Still, many pundits predicted that if Teachout won more than 25 percent of the vote she could claim some measure of success in challenging Cuomo's grasp on power.
Teachout's candidacy was born in the spring when she challenged Cuomo for the nomination of the Working Families Party, a coalition of labor unions and liberal activists. The party ultimately endorsed Cuomo, but only after Teachout won 41 percent of the party's delegates and Cuomo promised to redouble his efforts to pass liberal priorities like a higher minimum wage and public campaign financing.
Supporters defended Cuomo's liberal credentials throughout the campaign, noting his work to pass same-sex marriage and gun control measures while also working to cut state government dysfunction and boost the economy through business-friendly tax policies and initiatives designed to spur economic development in western New York.
With $35 million in Cuomo's campaign coffers, he appears well positioned for a matchup with Astorino, who had $2.4 million in his account, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Polls give Cuomo a more than 2-1 ratio lead over Astorino, who remains little known.
Associated Press writers Rachelle Blidner in New York and Jim Fitzgerald in Mount Kisco contributed to this report.