The Democratic View: Why September? Why Thursday?


By Kathy Zahler


You might be wondering why we are voting in yet another primary on Sept. 13. Why is New York the only state in the union to have separate primaries for federal (congressional) and state elections in 2018?

Not to be partisan about it, but you can blame the state Republicans for this one. Less than a decade ago, we held both primaries in September, on the same date. Then the federal government sued the state, claiming that such a late federal primary did not allow them time to get absentee ballots for the general election out to overseas and military voters.
New York was left with a decision: Move both federal and state primaries to June, or leave the state primary in September while moving the federal one to June. The Republicans in Albany preferred the second choice, declaring that because the state legislative session runs through June, having the primary in June would leave them with no time to campaign.

So we have separate primary days, requiring separate ballots, separate setting up and taking down of voting machines, separate vote counts and inspector pay, and, according to the NYS Board of Elections, about $10 million added to the outlay for elections statewide.

Given the court case that moved our federal primary, I have no idea why Massachusetts, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island are allowed to have September federal primaries this year. The earliest federal primary was in March, in Texas, and the last one will be on Sept. 12, in Rhode Island.

Which brings me to the date of our state primary, Sept. 13. It’s a Thursday, which will confuse just about everyone who isn’t actually running. However, the standard Tuesday date, Sept. 11, happens to be not only the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks but also the last day of Rosh Hashanah. All I can say is, please, mark your calendars.

On the Democratic ballot on Sept. 13, you will see several contested races, for which you are asked to select one candidate apiece.

FOR GOVERNOR, your choices are Andrew Cuomo or Cynthia Nixon.

FOR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, your choices are Kathy Hochul or Jumaane Williams. Note that governor and lieutenant governor do not run as a ticket until the general election. In a primary, they are elected separately. New York is one of eight states in which the governor and lieutenant governor run on the same ticket in the general election, but the governor does not get to choose his or her running mate.

FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL, your choices are Leecia Eve, Tish James, Sean Patrick Maloney, or Zephyr Teachout.

FOR STATE SENATE DISTRICT 58 (if you live in the City or Town of Ithaca, Enfield, Newfield, or Ulysses), your choices are Amanda Kirchgessner or Michael Lausell.

FOR STATE COMMITTEEWOMAN, your choices are Emily Adams or Diane Bruns. The Democratic Party sends one woman and one man from each county committee to serve on the state committee. Of the two races this year, only this one is contested.

FOR TOMPKINS COUNTY SHERIFF, your choices are Ken Lansing or Derek Osborne.

The Board of Elections has sample ballots on its website at Our committee has links to the campaigns of all of the above candidates on our website. Visit and make an informed choice on Sept. 13. Remember that, as with all primaries, polls will open at noon and close at 9 p.m.


Kathy Zahler is Director of Communications for the Tompkins County Democratic Committee. See the committee website at


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