Election Day: What Are You Watching?

vote icon Election Day: What Are You Watching?Tomorrow is Election Day! For Congress and the U.S. Senate primaries at least. So at long last we all get to find out if all of these months of breathlessly following FEC filings and endorsement press releases amount to anything, or if those of us who follow politics are really as wrapped in our myopia as we imagine ourselves to be (we are guessing that regardless of the outcome, the answer to that question is yes.)

Anyway, what will you be looking for tomorrow when the results come trickling in? Is there a certain candidate that needs to clear a threshold in order to remain legitimate? A challenger that will show herself to be a rising star if she does well? Will endorsements matter? Incumbency? The economy?

Let us know what you will be looking for by shooting an email at dfreedlander [@] observer.com. If you promise to refrain from excessive spin, anonymous and semi-anonymous submissions are welcome.

Here are some of our thoughts:

Vito Lopez’s Big Day
A lot of the framing of this election season has been about the “Brooklyn Spring”—insurgents rising up against the party establishment. If only it were so simple. Instead Vito Lopez, head of the Brooklyn Democratic Party is backing one longshot and one favorite. The longshot is Erik Dilan, who is going up against local icon Nydia Velazquez. The favorite is Hakeem Jeffries, who is going up against firebrand Charles Barron. But even here the lines are so neat. Mr. Jeffries is also a favorite of Brooklyn’s Democratic reformers who want to boot Mr. Lopez out, as well as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and most of the city’s elected class. So even though Mr. Lopez counts himself a Jeffries fan, a win here won’t be too big of a mark in his favor—although he did make things a lot easier for Mr. Jeffries by chasing incumbent Ed Towns out of the race. A win by Mr. Dilan, however, would represent an incredible coup for the Brooklyn boss and would amount to a stunning comeback for someone who even only a few years ago looked like he was done for due to a series of city and federal investigations into his non-profit.

Most wise political heads I have spoken with think Ms. Velazquez is the favorite headed into tomorrow, but pay attention to the margin of victory. She has skated through Election Day after Election Day for decades now, and if Mr. Dilan gets under 10 points, expect the congresswoman to see regular challenges from now on, possibly again from Mr. Dilan in 2014.

Will Ethnicity Trump All?
The redrawing of the lines meant that Gary Ackerman’s old seat in Queens is now a plurality Asian, and that Charlie Rangel’s Harlem seat is now a majority Latino. Ethnicity is just about thicker than anything in New York politics, and it will be interesting to see if Mr. Rangel’s long record and incumbency beats out the desire of Hispanics to elect one of their own, Adriano Espaillat, to Congress (if he wins, Mr. Espaillat would be the first Dominican in Congress.) Meanwhile, out in Queens, Grace Meng is running to become the first Asian from New York in Congress. Her opponent, Rory Lancman, has a lot of support from some of the politically powerful labor unions affiliated with the Working Families Party. Will pathbreaking candidates energize enough voters to beat out sophisticated ground operations?

And speaking of the WFP:
Over the last several years, the Working Families Party has found itself on opposite sides with the Queens County Democratic Party. And in a sign of the shift in political power from county machines to labor machines, the WFP won more often then they lost. The Meng/Lancman race though is a pretty big stage for the WFP, and it will be interesting to see if they can topple the county party—which backs Meng—in order to get one of their own in Congress.

Turnout, Especially In the US Senate Primary:
With the odd June primary, turnout is expected to be stunningly and embarrassingly low. How low remains anyone’s guess, and is actually the biggest wild card headed into tomorrow. If not enough people show up to vote, even the wildest of wild cards has a shot, and easy favorites could be in for a humbling election night.

For those and other reasons, pay attention to turnout in the GOP US Senate primary between Bob Turner, Wendy Long and George Maragos. That race has gotten an awfully little bit of attention, and if turnout is as low as it appears to be, then Kirsten Gillibrand should be feeling pretty good over the next several months.