Welcome to New York! The state so nice, it was covered in ice (until 22,000 years ago).
To your left you can see what the map of NY’s congressional districts looked like in 2008. If you look up, you’ll see the current CDs scraping the sky. We have 27 districts. Howaboutdat!
12 of our 27 districts are in New York City (5-16 roughly speaking).
Did you know that every faucet in NYC serves the champagne of tap waters? And they run 24×7.
So what is New York about?
We’ve got Niagara Falls (so named by the Haudenosaunee/Iroquois), we’ve got the Finger Lakes (best Riesling in the country!), the Adirondacks (hike the High Peaks!), and the Catskills (Nobody puts baby in a corner! and Woodstock!). We’ve got Lake George (Andiatarocte to the Mohawk), Lake Placid (John Brown is buried here but his soul keeps marching on), the Thousand Islands (Manitouana to the Haudenosaunee), West Point and the Hudson River. The Mohican tribe called the Hudson the Muhheakunnetuk, or “river that flows two ways”. That’s because the lower half is virtually flat (2ft elevation at Troy), making it a tidal estuary sitting in a fjord. The Hudson is also called a “drowned river”, the rising tide sends salt water all the way up to Poughkeepsie, 75 miles north of NYC! And yes Virginia, we have fjords in New York, mother nature carved out some skyscrapers for us too! Alexander Hamilton died on the banks of the Hudson. We’ve also got some of the best public beaches in the world, plus the Hamptons!
Oh yeah, almost forgot, we also have New York City. That means we’ve got Central Park, Van Cortlandt park, Prospect Park, Alley Pond Park has the oldest tree in New York, it’s 400 years old. We’ve got Hell’s Kitchen, Washington Heights, and Harlem, which used to be the Dutch village of Haarleem, just as the city itself was New Amsterdam before it was New York, and it was Manhattan to the Lenape before that. We’ve got a county for Kings, and a county for Queens, two baseball teams, two basketball teams, two airports (three if you count Newark, five if you count Teeterboro and Westchester) five boroughs, and I’m sure we have hobbits, because Frodo Lives!. We’ve got the Empire State Building, the Verrazano Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, a bridge (renamed) for RFK, the Throgs Neck Bridge and the Whitestone Bridge and a bridge for Ed Koch. The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority is a front for the Men in Black. We’ve got Times Square, Broadway, the West Village, the East Village, Chelsea, the Bowery, Madison Ave, Fifth Ave, the Avenue of the Americas, the meatpacking district and Soho. We’ve got the place where Lincoln gave the speech that sent him to the White House, and after that we built Union Square, Grant’s Tomb, and Grand Army Plaza. We’ve got Loisaida, and Alphabet City, Sugar Hill and Spanish Harlem, we’ve got hipsters and hasidim in Williamsburg, Greenpoint used to be Polish now it’s condos, Bay Ridge is still Italian, and Bayside used to be but the Koreans are moving in. Flushing is Asian and Astoria is still kinda Greek Opa!, Elmhurst’s little public library has books in dozens of languages and Jackson Heights has the rest, the Russians are in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn Heights is genteel and Park Slope has valet parking for strollers. The longshoremen are long gone from Red Hook, Bushwick is still edgy, Bed-Stuy is gentrifying and East New York may someday too. We’ve got Columbia, NYU, Cooper Union and FIT, CUNY (25 colleges, 400,000 students), Fordham and the New School (Bernie’s an alum, it’s a socialist utopia in the den of Mammon and Senator Bob Kerrey was once it’s president). We had Zika and Ebola, and everyone still rides the subway! Coz you only live once.
You name it, we got it. And I’m not even going to start on the art, or the literature, or the music, or the fashion, or the money.
We’ve sent a half dozen presidents to DC (you’re welcome America). Grover Cleveland was sworn in twice, but he won the popular vote three times! Teddy Roosevelt had the best result of any third-party candidate in a Presidential election, plus he was fit as a Bull Moose. We sent Franklin Delano Roosevelt to rescue the country from the Great Depression and you liked him so much you elected him four times! Then you had to amend the constitution to make sure no one ever did that again.
And I’m leaving out a lot of stuff so we can begin to…
Both candidates can claim NY as home. Hillary relocated to Westchester. Bernie was born in New York. He left, but we forgive him for that. Brooklyn had the Dodgers back then, three baseball teams! So you could say we attract and produce the best. It’s a big state though, and we do have our share of idiots. Sorry for Drumpf (and Peter King)!
The last time Hillary Clinton ran for general election in New York was November 2006, her last primary was February 2008. Bernie Sanders hasn’t lived in New York since 1968. He doesn’t know subway tokens are history! But we love him anyway, he reminds us of so many opinionated, passionate New Yorkers we know.
Lots has changed in New York since 2008, and we’re going to have a debate in a week, a key question is whether the candidates can tailor their message for NY. New Yorkers have finely tuned bullshit detectors, pandering won’t help either candidate. It has to be from the gut.
The state is typically divided into two segments. Upstate is anything north of Westchester/Dutchess counties. Downstate is anything to do with New York City. But I’m going use a three part division, NYC, NYC suburbs and Upstate. That makes a lot more sense to me when thinking of New York in political terms.
Virtually every major New York politician has endorsed Hillary and she can count on their organizations. Bernie has an uphill struggle, but a very large number of dedicated volunteers and supporters who can help him bridge the gap.
Broad strokes, Bernie’s got a good chance to run away with New York. Depends on how quickly he can introduce himself to NYers. Upstate is pretty much his for the asking. The suburbs are probably out of his reach. Winning New York City will depend on whether he can hit the right notes for the city’s issues.
I’m going to look at 2008 primary results as a base and make some projections using them. In 2008, New York went for Hillary:
Obama won only 3 congressional districts back then. They were the old CD6 (South-East Queens), CD10 (Central Brooklyn) and CD11 (Central Brooklyn). These roughly correspond to today’s CD5, CD8 and CD9. All three of those districts are majority African American. He lost Harlem/Upper Manhattan (old CD15, current CD13) 53-47. That’s Charlie Rangel’s district (he’s my rep), it’s 30% Black, 25% White, 5% Asian, 8% Mixed and a whopping 35% Other. In reality 55% of it is Hispanic.
Obama did very poorly in upstate rural/industrial areas (mid 30s). He didn’t do much better in Nassau (lots of white flight here) and Suffolk (rural). He hit the 40s in the Northern suburbs (Westchester, Putnam etc).
Broad brush, I expect:
- Rural counties to flip from Hillary to Bernie.
- Cities hit by industrial decline to go for Bernie (Buffalo, Rochester, Troy)
- I think Hillary’s strength is limited to Suffolk, Upper East Side, Westchester, Staten Island and possibly, just possibly Harlem, central Brooklyn.
The complete 2008 results at Congressional District are at The Green Papers, you can also view them by county and by congressional district at elections.ny.gov.
Comparing voter registration figures between November 2015 and April 2016, the news doesn’t look good for Hillary. Three district now have between 14,000 and 22,000 fewer registered Democrats. They are:
- CD7: Nydia Velazquez (LES, Chinatown, Brooklyn waterfront)
- CD8: Hakeem Jeffries (Central and S-E Brooklyn)
- CD9: Yvette Clarke (Central and South Brooklyn)
The last two are districts we would expect to go for Hillary. CD7 depends on the Hispanic vote, we’ll talk about that a bit more when we discuss NYC.
On the other hand, upstate and rural districts (CD1-4, CD17-23, 25, 27) now have a few thousand more Democrats each. I would expect Bernie to outperform here.
Okay, let’s talk numbers first and then we’ll delve into explanations.
Where are the Votes?
I’ve pulled together a table below that shows you each Congressional District. You can see the percentage of the vote Hillary got in 2008. These are my own rough estimates based on a reading of how districts were redrawn. They are not as precise as a precinct level tabulation and re-allocation to new CDs would be. Life’s short, don’t have the time to do that.
I assume turnout is the same as 2008, with 1.82 million out of 5.27 million registered Democrats showing up. If turnout is much higher than this 35% estimate, then we may see Bernie up by more.
The columns below are Congressional District, Representative, Delegates Available, Region, HRC Vote Share in 2008, Forecast Vote share for Bernie, Forecast Delegates for Bernie, Forecast Raw Vote for Bernie, Net change in Democrats over last 6 months, Median Household Income for CD. Keep an eye on the median income since we will talk about that a bit.
|REP||DEL||REGION||HRC 08||BERN||BERN||BERN VOTE||NEW DEMS||INC|
I didn’t include racial composition in the analysis above. The suburbs are pretty white (70-80%) with sizable Asian populations, the city is very diverse. Upstate New York has a sizable black population (10-20% in many CDs), but is largely white. Clearly, the Democratic electorate may not match the racial composition of the larger population. There are a lot of immigrant population centers within the city and outside it. CD6 is over 40% Asian, CD7 is 20% Asian, 40% Hispanic. CD13 has a number of big Universities (Columbia, CIty College, Yeshiva) so does CD10 (NYU, New School, FIT) and there are a number of CUNY campuses sprinkled across the city with hundreds of thousands of students enrolled. If they turn up and vote for Bernie, he could exceed expectations.
One other thing. No one has a great read on the Jewish vote in NY (which can be up to 20% of the primary vote in NYC). There’s a lot of support for Bernie among younger and more progressive Jewish voters. But older and more religious voters don’t seem to be fond of his largely secular stance. Some people may be turned off by his take on the Israel/Palestine conflict and his insistence that the US deal with both even-handedly. He is getting particularly bad press in Israel for his comments to the Daily News on the Gaza conflict last year. The former Israeli ambassador is accusing Bernie of ‘blood libel’. Both issues are probably going to hurt him with the Orthodox population, concentrated in Williamsburg and Borough Park. About 40% of Jews in NYC identify as orthodox, that number has grown in recent years. Orthodox voters could impact CD7, CD9 and CD10. 10 is balanced by the largely secular/liberal Upper West Side (Jerry Nadler’s district). 7 has a big Hispanic population, 9 is majority African American. I have Bernie winning 10 and 7, but losing 9.
What about the Polls?
The latest Quinnipiac poll has this breakdown of support for a Clinton/Sanders primary among likely voters:
The polls says Hillary leads 54-42, or 12 points. Hillary has a net unfavorable rating in NY, 45-49 while Bernie’s is favorable at 54-30.
I forecast Bernie winning 47.5% of the vote, but walking away with 128 of 247 delegates. That’s largely because I think the delegate math can work out in Bernie’s favor and I wanted to show this path. See Torilahure’s excellent diary on NY delegate math which presents an alternate scenario, a Clinton blowout. I expect Bernie to do well enough to get a 4-2 split in a number of rural districts (1, 2, 21, 24, 25, 27) and some uber-liberal districts in NY (6, 7, 10). That accounts for the lopsided result in delegates.
I think he could do much better than that, but it depends on whether he can hit the right notes in NYC. Also note that NYC is very diverse economically. It has some of the richest, and some of the poorest districts in the state. Lots of working-class people in NYC and the small, though active Working Families Party has endorsed Bernie. More on that below as I discuss each region and what went into the forecast.
Current polls have Bernie and Hillary separated by 10-12 points. When asked about this, Bernie said:
“Well that’s an interesting point. In my home state where the people know me pretty well, I got 86 percent of the vote,”
Our big population centers here are Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Schenectady, Utica, Troy and Binghamton. We used to have a lot of industry upstate thanks to cheap transport and great waterways. The decline of American manufacturing has hit the region hard over the past few decades. We have a number of universities upstate, and a lot of agriculture. The eastern part of upstate New York borders Vermont and looks a lot like it. The Western part sits on top of Pennsylvania, and shares a lot with it.
On the CD map, it’s districts 19 through 27. I figure all of them except CD20 (Albany) go for Bernie by various margins, mostly in the 60s. Hillary swept them in 2008, but the dynamic in this race seems different to me. Think of the Massachusetts/Vermont/New Hampshire primaries, Bernie won virtually all the rural counties. Much of upstate New York is adjacent and has the same demographics/economy. Bernie should theoretically appeal to three key demographics upstate, industrial working-class families, rural/farm families, and students.
I think it’s going to be tough going for Hillary upstate, even though voters there supported her in her senate bids and the 2008 primary:
Hillary Clinton’s political ascent can be traced to the time in 1999 when she expressed her support for dairy farmers in the upstate New York village of Endicott. And the summer that year when she shunned Martha’s Vineyard to vacation in Skaneateles, and promised voters in the depleted industrial city of Schenectady that as a New York senator she would revive the upstate economy.
The strategy helped Mrs. Clinton win her 2000 Senate race by double digits, a victory fueled by the unlikely support of white working-class voters in upstate New York who had previously voted Republican but were won over by the first lady’s attention to their underserved area.
I’m not so sure this is going to work again. After all the talk about speaking fees and the Clinton’s nine figure net worth, I suspect many voters upstate will view Hillary as being somewhat out of touch. Hillary hasn’t driven a car since 1996, while Bernie describes his car as a “red Chevy” and doesn’t know how old it is.
In general election matchups Clinton beats Cruz 53-32, Kasich 46-41 and Trump 53-33. Bernie’s margins are better at 56-28, 47-37 and 56-32 respectively. Much of Sanders’ improvement in margin comes from upstate New York where Sanders does 3-9% better in head to head match ups with the three than Clinton does.
Fracking is a big issue for liberal activists upstate, they managed to force a state-wide ban on the practice (protecting NYC’s champagne of tap waters). And the issue can lead to election victories:
Both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns are said to have studied the progressive Democratic primary challenge to Mr. Cuomo two years ago by Zephyr Teachout, an unknown law professor who won a surprising 33 percent by challenging Mr. Cuomo from the left, partly by highlighting her staunch opposition to fracking.
Ms. Teachout carried counties on the Pennsylvania border and in the Finger Lakes region, where grass-roots anti-fracking groups mobilized voters.
By the way, Hillary Clinton endorsed Teachout’s male opponent Andrew Cuomo, even though Zephyr would have been the first female governor of New York ever. I guess that glass ceiling just wasn’t important enough to smash through.
Down-ballot plug: Zephyr Teachout has endorsed Bernie and is running for Congress in the 19th district. If she wins, she’ll turn the district blue (the incumbent, Chris Gibson-R is retiring). Show her some love folks, primary is June 28th!
College impact: Two bright spots for Obama upstate in the 2008 primary were CD26 and CD28. CD26 was anchored by Binghamton, which has a big SUNY campus with 17k students. CD28 included Niagara Falls and Rochester which has two big colleges RIT and U of Rochester with 30k students between them. Those districts have been redrawn and look very different, their population is spread between today’s CD25, 26, 27. Bernie should do particularly well there.
The Suburbs (CD1-4, 17-18)
Westchester (CD17, 18) and Nassau (CD3, CD4) are solid Hillary. CD3 has the highest median income in the state, at 101k, CD4 (92k) and CD17 (91k) are not far behind. Many commuter towns with a lot of professionals who work in NYC. Wall Street bashing detracts here and in CD12 which is anchored by the Upper East Side.
CD1 and CD2 are a blend of the suburbs and upstate NY. They don’t have many commuter towns since most population centers are over 50 miles from NYC. They have a fair amount of agriculture and fishing and are actually whiter than the Westchester/Nassau. That said, they have high median incomes. They both have Republican reps, the Democrats in the area are either working class or socially liberal. I have them both going for Bernie.
The Big Apple (CD5-16)
In the table above, I included median income to give you a sense of how wealthy different CDs are. NYC contains both extremes. In some cases, median household income (half of families are below, half above) obscures even greater disparities. For example, median income in CD1 is 85K while mean income is 108K. All those Hamptons beachfront mansions drive up the mean/average. CD3 is even more extreme, 101K median and 142K mean. CD10 goes from 81K to 145K. CD12 is the big kahuna though, 94K median, 154K mean. A few blocks on Park Avenue account for that surge.
You want to talk class disparities? New York lives class disparity extremes every day. We have people making billions, literally billions a year and we have people getting by on minimum wage (soon to be $15 yay!). We have several dozen 100 million dollar apartments, and giant towers built specifically for absentee Russian and Chinese billionaires to use as savings accounts or tax dodges. Meanwhile, we have people living on the streets, including families, and thousands in shelters every day because they can’t afford rent. We even have a political party named The Rent Is Too Damn High!
There’s a big local political story that ties some of this together. The former speaker of the NY State Assembley, Sheldon Silver (D) was convicted and is awaiting sentencing in a corruption scandal. He received millions in no-show “consulting fees” from a number of law firms representing real-estate developers. In return, clients of these firms got bills passed reducing property taxes on luxury apartments they were building. That’s just the beginning. The speaker of the NY Senate, Dean Skelos (R) has also been arrested and convicted on bribery, corruption and extortion charges, again related in part to real-estate developers. Our governor (and Clinton ally) Andrew Cuomo (D) abruptly shut down an anti-corruption investigation that looked like it was going to focus on Silver. The US Attorney for southern NY, Preet Bharara (D) led all these investigations and others into Citibank, JP Morgan and Madoff. He said there were no federal charges to be filed concerning the closure of the commission, though he was critical of Cuomo and their investigation continues.
If Bernie were to tackle this as a pattern of political corruption that erodes our tax base, that may strike a chord. Thanks to various property-tax abatements, some of the multi-million dollar apartments going up in NYC have their property taxes reduced by up to 95%. It took a special bill in the state legislature to get an abatement for One57, the 90 story building on 57th street with numerous apartments priced close to or over 100 million dollars. I’ll let the NY Times explain what this meant:
The penthouse at One57, which offers panoramic views from 1,000 feet above 57th Street, recently sold for a record-setting $100.5 million.
But it is not the price that has grabbed the attention of housing advocates, policy analysts, developers and city officials. Rather, it is one of peculiarities of New York real estate: a billionaire’s lair that comes with an incentive that cuts this year’s property tax bill by 95 percent, or an estimated $360,000.
The Real Deal, a NY real-estate blog said this about One57:
But tax breaks at One57 cost the city $65.6 million in property tax revenue, according to a damning new report from the city’s Independent Budget Office. And those subsidies, which underwrote 66 affordable units in the Bronx, could have produced nearly 370 affordable units instead.
In most other parts of the country, wealth is hidden away behind high walls and gated communities. In New York it walks the street accessorized with a tall trophy in Manolo Blahniks and a Hermes tote. Or looks at you from the back seat of a chauffeured Bentley on Madison Avenue. What I mean is, New York is ripe for a conversation about class in a way much of the rest of the country isn’t. We have families with large staffs of nannies, housekeepers and fitness consultants. But they’re outnumbered by families living on a train-conductor or bus driver’s salary of 60k.
If Bernie can connect with families living on fixed incomes for whom the monthly rent payment is a big deal, he will win NYC. I know he can do this convincingly because he’s spoken about his parents’ financial struggles under similar conditions. Affordable housing is a huge issue in New York. You can become mayor of NYC if you can convince folks you’ll deliver on affordable housing and reduce the waiting lists of tens of thousands of families looking for a decent apartment within the city limits. BTW, DeBlasio has walked back some of his campaign promises on affordable housing. If Bernie addresses the issue as well as he has in his platform, and relates it to his work on affordable housing in Burlington, ears will perk up.
If he can find a way to speak to the 38% of NYC residents who are foreign born, he will do well with those of us who came here from somewhere else. He can talk to this with authenticity and has, because his family is an immigrant family.
Bernie is a recognizable character in New York, even if he hasn’t lived here in a long while. He’s someone we as New Yorkers have known all our lives, even if we’ve never met this particular incarnation. All over our great city and state, we have earnest Bernies who have turned their talents to the greater good and spurned the allure of riches. Some of them are young, others have been fighting the good fight for decades. We know them and we admire their rectitude. If Bernie can connect with New Yorkers, and I think he can, he could walk away with NY.
A lot of people around here have suggested Bernie’s critique of Wall Street will hurt him in NYC. They are mistaken. That is only true of small pockets in the city and the suburbs. Roughly 350,000 people work in Financial Services in New York and I’m one of them (some of my colleagues are registered Republicans). Many of us saw the crisis up front and center, and saw friends and co-workers lose jobs. There were over 50,000 layoffs in our world during that period and many thousands of careers were set back years. We are not keen to see it repeated.
That 350,000 sounds like a big number, but we have 5.26 million registered Democrats and there are numerous constituencies among the 350k. We have a few thousands Masters of the Universe pulling serious money who are probably unlikely to vote for Bernie. We have a lot of mid-level executives in revenue and non-revenue roles who probably feel more comfortable with Hillary’s tone and presentation and won’t be voting Bernie (not yours truly). We have a lot of younger people in the ranks who are more receptive to Bernie’s message and saw a lot of friends get hurt in 2008-09. A number of industry jobs are in commercial/retail banking and these folks know they aren’t on Wall Street (they may want to get there since pay is generally better) and most don’t see Bernie as attacking them.
And that is within the industry. Outside the industry, views on Wall Street are much more of a mixed bag. Gentrification, changing neighborhoods and rising rents are a big story and people lay some or most of the blame on the financial sector with its outsized pay packages and a global elite who snap up second homes in NYC. Anyone who thinks bashing Wall Street is a death knell in New York doesn’t know New York. Heck, we elected Rudy Giuliani mayor partly because he was tough on white-collar crime.
Okay that’s it. You made it through one of the longer election diaries. Come visit us in NY sometime, we like people who pay attention.
Bottom line, Bernie can win New York, he can even win it by a yuuuuge margin. But only if we get out and do the work, canvassing and calling for Bernie. We have 12 days, that’s an eternity in New York. Work like your future depends on it. Because it does!