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Turnout for state primary surges in 2018

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)

If voter turnout is any indication, last week’s primary race in central New York could mean a more active electorate is in the making. 

Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny estimates 24 to 25 percent of registered Democrats came out to the polls in Thursday’s state and local primary. That’s a lot more than usual for a state and local election.

"It was 8 percent in 2014, 8.6 percent the last time we had a governor’s primary," said Czarny. "So to have 24 percent in Onondaga County is incredible.”

There was a high profile gubernatorial race this year, as well as a competitive race for state Attorney General.  But Czarny believes a Trump effect could be at play as well.

"I think the election of 2016 woke people up to the importance of local elections and primary elections," he said. "And you see a motivated base throughout the country that we’ve seen in special elections and primary elections.”

One area where that motivated base was apparent, was in the upending of at least five incumbent state Senators who had caucused with Republicans as part of the Independent Democratic Conference.  A progressive coalition had been disappointed in the way these senators had worked with the GOP over the last six years, challenging all eight of them in primaries this year.

That number of IDC losers could jump to six on Thursday, when absentee ballots are counted in the 53rd state Senate District. Progressive challenger Rachel May has a 600 vote lead over incumbent Dave Valesky with 1500 absentees to be counted.

Czarny doesn't want to make a prediction, but admitted that Valesky has an uphill battle ahead.

"Normally it breaks pretty close to the election day results. But with a very close election it could go any way. I’m going to respect the candidates, and the candidates are respecting each other. May has not declared victory. Valesky has not conceded. They want to have the absentee ballots counted before they make a decision."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.