Primary History

Since there has been a lot of talk recently about whether statewide Democratic candidates will get 25% of the vote at the State Committee or will have to petition and whether receiving the designation of the State Committee was worth anything, I thought it might valuable to look at the history of Statewide Democratic Primaries.

The history does not go back far. Statewide Primaries began in 1968. Up until then, each party’s State Committee chose candidates with voters having no direct say in the process.

The change continued the Committees having a role but not a decisive one. Each Committee would have a meeting (or convention). Candidates receiving 50% or more of the vote became the Party’s designated candidate. Any candidate receiving 25% or more could also run in the Primary. Others could submit petitions signed by enrolled Party members to vote. The original petition requirements were harsher than they are. But it is still a difficult task. Now candidates in the Democratic or Republican parties must submit at least 15,000 signatures, with at least 100 signatures from ½ of New York’s congressional districts.

In the first Democratic Primary, the winner was not the candidate who received 50% of the State Committee vote but was former City Councilman and future City Council President Paul O’Dwyer who did receive 25% of the State Committee vote.

In subsequent years, candidates getting on the ballot all 3 ways (designation, 25% and petitions) have won or lost. In a few years, no candidate received 50% and there was no designee.

Which types did the best?

I tried as best as I can to remember how candidates get on the ballot but I have to admit I’m not sure of some of the candidates in the early 70s, so I’m going to guess (did Ramsey Clark petition in 1974?. I think so). Therefore these numbers may be off a little. I’m also leaving off some early Primaries for Court of Appeals Judge for this list.  Plus you should note that I’m leaving out candidates who received the designation and were then unopposed in a Primary (Schumer in 2004) but including those who had nuisance opponents (Hillary was opposed by Dr. Mark McMahon in 2000).

According to my almost accurate count,

Designated candidates (receiving 50%+) won 19 times

Candidates with 25% but less than 50% won 10 times

Candidates who petitioned won twice

What this means for 2006? Who knows?