Jumaane D. Williams coasted to re-election as New York City public advocate on Tuesday, affirming his status as a rising Democratic force two years shy of the next mayoral election
Mr. Williams, an ardent progressive, was among the best known of the names on the ballot. There were no statewide races in New York or New Jersey, but all of the seats in New Jersey’s General Assembly were on the ballot.
Though few household names featured in this off-year election, some of the lower-profile races may offer valuable insight about the coming presidential-year showdowns. As progressives prepare to take on more mainstream incumbents in the 2020 primary elections, and as President Trump’s base girds for battle, this year’s outcomes, most of which have not yet been called, could show early signs of strength and weakness.
Progressives eyed several district attorney posts across New York, hoping to install prosecutors who would fight mass incarceration and prioritize racial justice. In New York City, voters weighed an overhaul of the city’s voting system, another progressive priority.
The victory by Mr. Williams over his opponent, Councilman Joseph Borelli, Republican of Staten Island, was no surprise in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans almost seven to one.
The election process itself already reflected Democratic wins: This was the first year that New Yorkers were allowed to vote early, after the newly Democrat-led State Legislature approved a bill allowing the practice in January. New York had been one of just 12 states that did not allow early voting. (Of registered voters, 1.9 percent cast their ballots early.)
At the same time, conservatives made their presence known. In New Jersey, a vulnerable Democratic state senator was trying to hold onto his seat, having already been backed into declaring that he would not rule out voting for Mr. Trump next year.
Here are five things to watch from Election Day 2019:
New York City and Jersey City, N.J., both left major decisions about the cities’ futures in the hands of voters.
In New York City, a ballot question proposed a system of ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, rather than selecting only their top choice. The goal, supporters said, was to reduce runoff elections and minimize the risk of split votes: If no single candidate won a majority, the last-place finisher would be eliminated, and his or her votes would be redistributed to supporters’ second choices.
The system would be used only in primary and special elections, not general, and would apply to elections for mayor, comptroller, public advocate, borough president and the City Council. It would debut in 2021.
The proposal is widely expected to pass, though a group of elected officials mounted a last-minute opposition campaign, arguing that ranked-choice voting would leave minority candidates and voters at a disadvantage.
In Jersey City, residents voted on whether to implement stricter regulations on short-term rentals, in the most expensive local referendum in the state’s history.
The new measures would be a blow to Airbnb, which plowed more than $4 million into ads, mailers and canvassers, easily outspending the hotel industry and an influential hotel workers union, which were in favor of the proposal.
Jersey City has become increasingly valuable to the company as New York City has escalated its own crackdown on illegal Airbnbs. But the new restrictions aim to weed out large-scale investors who have rented out hundreds of brownstones and condos through Airbnb, raising quality-of-life complaints and concerns about the impact on housing affordability.
Democratic energy, and angst, continues
Though this year’s races had little of the spotlight that will likely come in 2020, they exhibited many of the same themes.
The fervor that helped the Democrats retake the House of Representatives last year was put to the test again in Suffolk County on Long Island, where the Democratic county executive, Steve Bellone, is running for a third term, even though nearly 53 percent of the county voted for Mr. Trump in 2016.
In New Jersey, Senator Bob Andrzejczak, a Democrat, is being challenged by Mike Testa Jr., the Republican co-chairman of President Trump’s re-election effort in New Jersey.
The precarious situation Mr. Andrzejczak faced was evident throughout his campaign. He competed against a write-in candidate from the left, but also had to beware of alienating conservatives in his purple district. (A key example of Mr. Andrzejczak’s dilemma: He was appointed after his predecessor, Jeff Van Drew, won a House seat in last year’s blue wave. But Mr. Drew recently was one of two House Democrats to vote against the resolution laying out rules for the impeachment inquiry.)
The warfare within the Democratic Party similarly shows no signs of ebbing.
Melinda Katz, the Queens borough president, easily defeated a Republican to become the next Queens district attorney. But while her victory on Tuesday was largely effortless, her path there was anything but: It involved the first boroughwide manual recount in recent memory, after the Democratic primary came down to a barely-there margin between Ms. Katz, who had the establishment’s blessing, and another candidate, Tiffany Cabán.
Ultimately, Ms. Cabán — a democratic socialist and former public defender who was endorsed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — lost to Ms. Katz by 55 votes.
A fight to shape criminal justice
Several other district attorney races also drew attention and boldfaced names, proof of growing attention by Democrats nationwide to prosecutor posts, which they see as a battleground ripe for progressive ideals.
In Monroe County in New York, which includes Rochester, Shani Curry Mitchell, a Democrat, challenged the Republican incumbent, Sandra Doorley, by running on a promise to curb mass incarceration, prioritize diversity and end “overcharging” of low-level offenders.
Ms. Mitchell, who has drawn comparisons to Larry Krasner in Philadelphia and Wesley Bell in St. Louis, also attracted significant outside support: She was the beneficiary of more than $800,000 in outside spending by an activism group funded by the Democratic billionaire George Soros.
In Ulster County, in the Hudson Valley, David Clegg, a Democrat, ran against Michael J. Kavanagh, a Republican backed by the Republican incumbent, who did not seek re-election. Mr. Soros had also spent at least $184,000 supporting Mr. Clegg.
The Democratic candidates, if successful, would inherit an overhaul of New York’s criminal justice laws by the State Legislature, which voted earlier this year to sharply restrict the use of cash bail.
The fascinations of local politics
Other regional races showcased the often-dizzying convolutions of local politics that are so often overshadowed by bigger contests.
The lone state legislative race in New York, a special election for State Senate in southwest New York, pitted a 22-year-old Democrat against a Republican in an overwhelmingly conservative area. The Democrat, Austin Morgan, had pointed to the 2018 blue wave as reason for hope, but he faced a huge fund-raising gap against his opponent, George Borrello, the county executive of Chautauqua County.
In Connecticut, Mayor Joseph P. Ganim of Bridgeport was running for re-election, despite a campaign dogged by allegations of voter fraud and Mr. Ganim’s own checkered history. (He spent seven years in federal prison for corruption, then won re-election in 2015 after being released.)
Mr. Ganim, a Democrat, had won September’s primary election by less than 300 votes, defeating State Senator Marilyn Moore. But after residents of a low-income apartment building told Hearst Connecticut Media that they had been improperly pushed to vote for Mr. Ganim, the State Elections Enforcement Commission opened an investigation, and Ms. Moore began a write-in campaign.
In New Haven, Justin Elicker, a former city alderman, was running against the incumbent mayor, Toni Harp — for the second time. Mr. Elicker beat Ms. Harp in the Democratic primary in September, but Ms. Harp stayed in the race, running on the Working Families Party line.
The post N.Y. Election: Jumaane Williams Is Re-Elected as Public Advocate appeared first on New York Times.