Mixed Bag on the Last Primary Night

There were no huge shockers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island on the final primary night of 2014, but a lot of interesting stuff happened.

If you buy the idea that Andrew Cuomo’s ego and presidential aspirations required a 70%-plus landslide primary win, then both took a hit, as his margin against woefully underfunded Zephyr Teachout was only 62/34. He barely outpaced supposedly vulnerable running-mate Kathy Hochul. We’ll see if Cuomo shows signs of a trait he’s never mastered–humility–or continues to exasperate friends and make new enemies daily.

Downballot Democrats remains bullish on winning control of the NY Senate in November (one GOP incumbent lost a primary to a conservative challenger last night), but progressives will continue to worry about the treacherous Independent Democratic Conference members, two of whom overcome left-bent challenges in the primary.

In MA Martha Coakley won a surprisingly narrow 42/36 primary win over Steve Grossman (with Don Berwick winning 21%) in the gubernatorial primary. But she’s now on track to redeem her disastrous 2010 Senate special election loss to Scott Brown as a strong favorite over Republican Charlie Baker, who will be trying to reinvent himself as a moderate. Also in MA, John Tierney became the fourth House incumbent (and first Democrat) to lose in a primary this year, presumably thanks to his wife’s legal problems, which nearly sank him in the 2012 general election.

Speaking of Scott Brown, the carpetbagger brushed aside two opponents to win a chance at an upset of Jeanne Shaheen in the NH Senate race. Establishment GOPer Walt Havenstein gets about the same chance of upsetting NH Gov. Maggie Hassan. Frank Guinta gets his third straight matchup with Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in NH-01 (Guinta won in 2010, Shea-Porter in 2012). Club for Growth candidate Marilinda Garcia won the GOP nod to take on incumbent Ann Kuster in NH-02.

In RI state Treasurer Gina Raimondo benefited from a split between progressive supporters of Providence mayor Angel Taveras and political scion Clay Pell to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Her path to election was probably eased by the Republican victory of conservative Cranston mayor Allan Fung.

It does appear New England is likely to add two Democrats to the ranks of women serving as governors (there are currently five–four of them Republicans–with Jan Brewer retiring and Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez, Mary Fallin along with Hassan up for re-election).

In my TPMCafe column, I tried to make sense of the “last primary” via a “four R’s” rubric (a “rebuke” to Cuomo, a “rebirth” for Coakley, a “rejection” of Tierney and a “rematch” in NH). Check that out if you wish. It’s not like we’ll have any other hard election data until November.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.