New York Primary Is Tuesday's 'Big Casino'

New Yorkers go to the polls today to nominate candidates for the governorship being vacated by scandal-tinged Democrat David Paterson as well as both U.S. Senate seats (to oppose Democratic incumbents Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand), and several U.S. House seats that could go from Democrat to Republican.

By far, the primary in the Harlem-based 15th District to determine whether or not scandal-tarred Rep. Charles Rangel survives is enough to guarantee national coverage of the New York races.

Because of the number of exciting contests and the fact that it is New York, the Empire State is likely to be the “big casino”—the most-watched of the seven states (and the District of Columbia) who will host the last primaries of 2010 today.

With the strong on-the-ground assistance of our special New York correspondent Heather Bachman, Human Events says the following contests will be worth watching:

Governor Primary: Lazio on the Ropes

Although he won the gubernatorial endorsements at the conventions of both the Republican and New York State Conservative Parties, former Rep. (1992-2000) Rick Lazio may wind up losing the primaries for both. Multimillionaire real estate developer and first-time candidate Carl Palladino is spending heavily from his own wealth, with calls to cut state income taxes by 10% by June of next year and cut business taxes to encourage economic growth. Palladino’s message—“Are you mad as hell? Enough is enough!”—resonates with the state’s Tea Party movement and he has come within striking distance of Lazio for the Republican nomination.

On the Conservative side, Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph Lorigo is the stand-in for friend Palladino, who failed to win authorization to compete for the Conservative nomination against endorsed candidate Lazio. If Lorigo wins, he is almost sure to give up the endorsement and permit the party to give its ballot line to Palladino.

Although Lazio has maintained a high-profile for his stand against the mosque in New York City, he last sought office in a losing Senate race ten years ago and his work for Wall Street firms has not helped his image.

State Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo is unopposed for the ballot lines of the Democratic and Independence Parties.

U.S. Senate (Schumer Seat): Battle of the Unknowns

Former CIA officer Gary Bernsten, who won the endorsement of the GOP State Convention, is squaring off against Jay Townsend, a market research consultant (who has the Conservative Party line). The winner will have an uphill battle against two-termer Schumer.

U.S. Senate (Gillibrand Seat): Dio or David?

The contest to oppose appointed Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for the remaining two years of Hillary Clinton’s term appears to be down to former Rep. (1984-88) Joe DioGuardi, who has lost five comeback bids for the House since he was unseated 22 years ago, and economist David Malpass, who worked in the Reagan-Bush Treasury and State Departments.

The last-minute momentum appears to be with Malpass, who has the endorsements of Rudy Giuliani and ’06 GOP gubernatorial nominee John Faso. Running third in the race is former Nassau County legislator Bruce Blakeman, who is known largely because his former wife is now engaged to Sir Paul McCartney.

Should DioGuardi lose, it is unclear whether he will continue to run on the Conservative line.

New York-1: Three GOP Knights Pursuing a Bishop

No one is picking any favorites to face Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in the 1st District (Suffolk County) largely because all three Republican hopefuls are strong in their own ways: Chris Cox, attorney and magnetic campaigner, and grandson of Richard Nixon; Randy Altschuler, self-made millionaire from his OfficeTiger office supplies business (who has the Conservative Party nod), and former SEC lawyer George Demos, who just got the blessings of Rush Limbaugh when the radio talkmeister dubbed him “a literal Rush baby.”

New York-4: War in Nassau County

Law professor and stalwart conservative Frank Scaturro seemed to have wrapped up the Republican and Conservative nominations and thus had a clear shot at six-term Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy. But, with the blessings of Nassau County GOP Chairman Joe Mondello, County Legislator Fran Becker got into the race late and won the endorsements of both parties. As the namesake-son of a popular conservative congressman and brother of a former state legislator, Becker has few issue differences with Scaturro. But many grass-roots activists resent the way Becker seemed to be “slotted” for nomination and the primary could easily go to Scaturro.

New York-15: Rangel’s Last Hurrah?
By far the most-watched of the New York races nationwide is embattled Rep. Charles Rangel’s attempt to survive the Democratic primary in his Harlem-based district after an ongoing ethics probe that led to his relinquishing the chairmanship of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Much of the press “spin” has been on the fact that Rangel’s leading opponent is state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell, IV, namesake-son of the legendary political powerhouse that Rangel himself unseated to win his first term 40 years ago.

Powell has clearly been gaining on Rangel and privately, national Democrats do not wish to have the incumbent running again as he is investigated on ethics charges and abuse of his office. The race is complicated by three other candidates, including Joyce Johnson, who got the endorsement of the New York Times.

New York—23: Hoffman’s Turn, Or Doheny’s Day?

The race that captured the attention of conservatives everywhere during the special election in ’09 has taken a different turn. Businessman and Conservative nominee Doug Hoffman won support of state and national Republicans after the GOP nod for the open upstate district went to liberal State Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava. Hoffman came in a close second but fellow short of Democrat Bill Owens.

Hoffman and his supporters believe that with the endorsements of both the Republican and Conservative Parties, he can take out Owens. But many Republicans are balking at backing him, citing his poor campaign style and an attitude that “it’s my turn.” Most of the party organizations have weighed in with Matt Doheny, who served in the administration of former Republican Gov. George Pataki. Doheny also has his own wealth, but Hoffman still has a fervent following.