ALBANY — When Gov. Andrew Cuomo is inaugurated for a second term in January, he will have New York City voters to thank.
Cuomo’s 13-percentage-point win over Republican challenger Rob Astorino on Nov. 4 was fueled by a large margin of victory in New York City, where he took home 77 percent of the nearly 1 million ballots cast, according to the state Board of Election’s unofficial results.
Take away the city, however, and the rest of the state backed Astorino — albeit by a slim margin. Outside of the five boroughs, Astorino collected 1.3 million votes — or 49 percent — compared to Cuomo’s 1.2 million, or 46 percent, in a lowturnout election. Three third-party candidates were also on the ballot.
It’s a shift from four years ago, when Cuomo, a Democrat, won 55 percent of the non-New York City vote en route to a 30-percentage-point win.
“The election returns were a whisper from the past, where Democrats ran up big margins in New York City, lost by big margins upstate and tried to hold strong in the suburbs,” said Lawrence Levy, who heads Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies.
Cuomo’s overall margin of victory was 54 percent to 41 percent. He outgained Astorino, the Westchester County executive, by about 481,000 votes. Roughly 3.6 million people statewide cast a ballot for governor, not counting write-ins or absentees, according to the Board of Elections.
The gap this year was far smaller than the 1.4 million-vote gap that separated Cuomo from Republican Carl Paladino in the 2010 election, when about 4.7 million people voted.
Political scientists and campaign advisers have long divided New York into three distinct regions when analyzing statewide election results: New York City, its suburbs and upstate.
Cuomo, the incumbent Democrat, ran up the score in New York City, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 6-to-1. A total of 738,088 people voted for him there, while Astorino took just 168,460 votes — 18 percent of the New York City total.
It was much closer in the city’s suburbs, which included Long Island and five other counties serviced by the city’s public-transit system: Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess and Orange.
There, Cuomo picked up about 50 percent of the vote — 535,364 votes — to Astorino’s 47 percent, or 498,360 votes. The three third-party candidates picked up about 3 percent.
It was upstate, which is generally more conservative outside its Democratic- heavy cities, where Astorino clawed away at Cuomo’s margin of victory.
The Republican candidate took 51 percent of the vote upstate — everything outside of New York City and its suburbs — with 803,822 ballots cast in his favor, compared to Cuomo’s 677,795 votes, or 43 percent.
In Monroe County, Astorino became the first Republican gubernatorial candidate to win the county since 1998, when Gov. George Pataki won a second term. Astorino narrowly edged Cuomo by about a 3,000-vote margin.
The county backed Cuomo by a rate of more than 2-to-1 in 2010 and supported Democrat Eliot Spitzer by a similar margin in 2006. In 2002, the county stuck by its hometown candidate: Paychex founder B. Thomas Golisano, who ran on the Independence Party line.
Monroe County Republican Chairman Bill Reilich, the Greece town supervisor, said a confluence of issues helped lead to Astorino’s win there, aided in part by a strong showing by the GOP nationally. Among other issues, he pointed to Cuomo’s pledge to spend $1 billion in state funds to spur economic development in Buffalo.
“A number of the governor’s policies weren’t supported by the residents of Monroe County,” Reilich said. “When you look at the $1 billion to Buffalo, Monroe County says, ‘What’s going on here? Are we the stepchild?’ So I think it’s a combination of issues and the mood of the country toward Democrats in general.”
Dave Garretson, Monroe’s Democratic Committee chairman, said he didn’t believe the “Buffalo Billion” played into the county’s results. The Democrats didn’t run challengers to several Republican incumbents in the county, including Sen. Joseph Robach and Assemblyman Bill Nojay, and it might have hurt Cuomo’s cause, Garretson said.
“As Democrats we did not field candidates to oppose every Republican on the ticket who were incumbents,” said Garretson, who became county chair in September. “That’s a moment that has passed, but it’s one of the things I look at and wonder. Perhaps we need to give Democrats more of a reason to come out and vote because we had a number of uncontested races and maybe that was enough to make that 1- or 2-point difference.”
Cuomo took three other upstate counties with populous cities: Erie, Onondaga and Albany. Overall, Astorino won 46 of the 57 counties outside of New York City. Broome County backed Cuomo, as it did four years ago.
The result, Levy said, is enough to give Republicans hope in a state where they haven’t won a statewide election since 2002. But the challenge will be to find moderate candidates who can cut into the massive margin in New York City, he said.
When Pataki won in 2002, he collected about 39 percent of the city’s vote to then-Comptroller Carl McCall’s 53 percent — still a large margin, but enough for the Republican to make it up in the rest of the state.
“This is the kind of election that can give Republicans hope that they can run candidates that appeal not only upstate but in the swing suburbs,” Levy said. “They just have to find a way to come across as at least moderate or pragmatic and inclusive enough to not get blown out in the five boroughs (of New York City) where the population is increasing more rapidly than anywhere else.”