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New York Governor Cuomo Beats Back Primary Challenge From Actress Cynthia Nixon

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo answers a question as Democratic New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon looks on during a gubernatorial debate at Hofstra University last month.
Craig Ruttle
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo answers a question as Democratic New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon looks on during a gubernatorial debate at Hofstra University last month.

Updated at 10:30 p.m. ET

The final primary before November's midterm elections saw a progressive challenger fall short of taking down the incumbent Democratic governor in New York.

Andrew Cuomo easily beat back a challenge from actress Cynthia Nixon, putting him on the path to a third term in office. He will be heavily favored against Republican nominee Marc Molinaro this fall.

The primary battle between the two had become a nasty feud, emblematic of the divergent and often warring forces within the Democratic Party. Cuomo, the son of a former governor, embodies the party establishment and heavily outspent Nixon.

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Nixon, best known for her role as Miranda in Sex and the City, ran to Cuomo's left as she championed single payer health care, more education spending and overhauling the New York City subway. She argued Cuomo had bent too much to Republicans in Albany and wasn't pushing through enough progressive priorities.

Polls had long showed Cuomo with a sizable advantage, but Nixon argued surveys were not accurately gauging her surge, much like they failed to do in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's upset win over House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley in New York's congressional primaries back in June.

"I think that the media and the polls are not capturing this progressive moment that we're in and how hungry voters are for an alternative to the establishment, for people like me who, aren't accepting any corporate money, and for people like me, who are speaking about the issues that voters really care about, like single-payer health care, like Housing is a Human Right, like fully funding education, which is an issue that I've been fighting on for 17 years, and real criminal justice reform," Nixon told All Things Considered earlier this week.

Cuomo took the challenge from Nixon seriously, blanketing airwaves, including with an ad from former Vice President Joe Biden. He touted his achievements such as paid family leave, minimum wage increases and tougher gun laws — and highlighted his full-throated opposition to President Trump.

Cuomo only agreed to one debate with Nixon, and painted her as too inexperienced and unfamiliar with the inner workings of policy and government. In an interview with the New York Daily News editorial board, Nixon said she would pass her single-payer health care plan "and then figure out how to fund it."

But one attack line in the final days of the campaign drew backlash. A mailer from the New York Democratic Party accused Nixon, who is raising her children in the Jewish faith, of anti-Semitism. Cuomo disavowed the ad; he had not approved it, but former aides to Cuomo had drafted the language in the mailer.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
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