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State politicians, party leaders react to election results

J. Stephen Conn

There were mixed reactions Wednesday from New York's politicians and political parties on this year's election results.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he's pleased that Democrats gained a county executive seat in Monroe County, where incumbent Republican Cheryl Dinolfo was defeated by Democrat Adam Bello. Bello will be the first Democratic county executive there in nearly 30 years.

Two swing counties on either end of the state remained in Democratic hands. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz beat back a challenge from Republican challenger Lynne Dixon. And in Suffolk County on eastern Long Island, Steve Bellone won a second term against GOP candidate John Kennedy.

Cuomo said it's proof to him that their governments were effective.

"Voters rewarded performance, which is what they should do," Cuomo said.

Some Republican incumbent county executives did keep their seats, including Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who won a third term in office. Molinaro unsuccessfully challenged Cuomo in the 2018 governor's race. The state's Conservative Party, in a statement, praised Molinaro's win, as did the Republican Party.

Nick Langworthy, the state Republican Party leader, said in a statement that there were "solid Republican wins" in every region of the state, including victories that flipped control in the Long Island town of Hempstead -- the nation's largest town with a population of 800,000 -- to Republicans, as well as GOP takeover of the Clinton County Legislature in northern New York.

There was one state-level election, a special election to replace Olean Sen. Kathy Young, who resigned earlier this year to take a job at Cornell University. Young, a Republican, was replaced by GOP candidate George Borrell in the heavily Republican district.  

Nationally, Democrats took over the Virginia State Legislature, and in Kentucky -- the state of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear was poised to take over the governorship from Republican incumbent Matt Bevin. Beshear leads by a small margin, Bevin has not yet conceded.

Cuomo said the wins are "a very big deal." 

"What does it mean next year? Who knows," the governor said.

New York for the first time had early voting, and polls were open in select locations for nine days before Election Day. More than 250,000 New Yorkers -- about 2% of all registered voters -- opted to cast their ballots early.

Voting rights advocates, including the League of Women Voters, said early voting was largely successful, but they want to tweak the rules to include more polling sites in counties with smaller populations, and to require that each county provide a polling place in its largest urban center. 

Cuomo said he's open to revisiting the law to perhaps improve it. 

"We have to study how it actually worked and where it worked, I'm sure we can do it better in some places," Cuomo said. "But the idea is right, and it's long overdue, and I'm proud we did it."

Early voting is expected to grow in popularity during the high-stakes presidential primary and general election in 2020. 

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.