- Associated Press - Sunday, June 19, 2016

CHATHAM, N.Y. (AP) - Primary races to replace a retiring congressman from the Hudson Valley feature two past candidates for New York governor facing off against lesser-known but spirited challengers.

Republican Rep. Chris Gibson is one of four New York congressmen retiring this year, and primary elections are being held June 28 in each of those districts. In New York City, Democrat Charles Rangel’s retirement after 23 terms has sparked a nine-person stampede for the party’s line. The Democratic primary for Steve Israel’s Long Island seat is slightly less crowded with five candidates, while three Republicans are competing for GOP Rep. Richard Hanna’s seat.

Gibson’s largely rural district, which stretches west from the Hudson Valley, is closely split between Democrats and Republicans. Both parties see a chance for a win this fall, teeing up hard-fought primary races.

Democratic candidate Zephyr Teachout became a progressive hero in 2014 by challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo from the left and grabbing about a third of the primary vote. The Fordham University law professor moved into the district after that race.

Teachout continues to rail against political corruption - her calling card - on the campaign trail but also highlights education and economic issues. One campaign solicitation said she was “like Elizabeth Warren with a New York twist,” linking her to the populist Massachusetts senator.

In a reversal from 2014, Teachout this time is running as a favorite against a lesser-known challenger. While Will Yandik lags in name recognition, he boasts deep roots in the district. The local town councilman in Livingston was born and raised in the Hudson Valley and plays up his work experience on his family’s farm.

A recent Siena poll shows Teachout with a 30-point lead.

District resident Jeff Waggoner said he’ll probably vote for her because he likes her focus on political corruption and her stance against fracking. Yandik hopes to convince more primary voters like Charlotte Fennell.

“They’re both nice, but I was going to go for Yandik,” said Fennell, as she walked down the main street of Chatham. “I think if you live up here and your family is from here, you sort of know what the local problems are much better.”

Gibson is a Republican who won re-election twice as he weaved around the political center in a district.

First-time candidate Andrew Heaney is working from a different playbook as he tries to woo Republican voters. The heating oil businessman who previously lived in New York City has raised more than $1.3 million for a campaign in which he likened himself to Donald Trump and rails against political correctness. Heaney has taken pot-shots at opponent John Faso as a “failed” politician and a lobbyist.

A win for Faso would be a political comeback. He became a prominent spokesman for conservative Republican policies during a 16-year tenure in the Assembly that ended in 2002. He ran unsuccessful campaigns for state comptroller in 2002 and governor in 2006, losing the latter race to Democrat Eliot Spitzer.

Faso, who has lived in the Hudson Valley for decades, has described Heaney as a “New York City millionaire” and criticized him for donating more than $2,000 to Barack Obama in 2007.

The Siena poll showed Faso leading Heaney by 22 points.


A look at some of the other upcoming congressional primary races in New York:

District 1 - Former Southampton Town supervisor Anna Throne-Holst is facing venture capitalist David Calone in a pricey Democratic primary on Long Island. The pair had raised a combined $3 million through June 8. Democrats hope to retake the seat held by Republican first-term Rep. Lee Zeldin.

District 3 - Former Nassau County executive Thomas Suozzi is among the five Democrats running for Steve Israel’s seat. Suozzi also ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic line in the 2006 governor’s race (losing to Spitzer, who went on to defeat Faso). Also running are Jon Kaiman, Steve Stern, Anna Kaplan and Jonathan Clarke. Republicans see a chance for a pick-up with their candidate Jack Martins.

District 13 - State Sen. Adriano Espaillat challenged Charles Rangel twice in Democratic primaries without success. Rangel is not running as Espaillat tries for a third time, but the nine primary candidates include Assemblyman Keith Wright, who has been endorsed by the incumbent.

Also in the mix is Adam Clayton Powell, son of Adam Clayton Powell Jr., the congressman who represented Harlem from 1945 until he lost a primary to Rangel in 1970.

The district has been a stronghold for black politicians and is now heavily Latino. It remains heavily Democratic, meaning the primary winner will be a prohibitive favorite in November.

District 22 - Hanna’s retirement has set up a three-way GOP primary for the central New York. Syracuse-area businessman Steve Wells, Utica-area Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney and Binghamton-area history teacher George Phillips are running for the line. The Democrat in the race is Kim Myers, a Broome County legislator whose father started Dick’s Sporting Goods.

District 24 - Three Democrats are vying for the party’s line to take on Republican first-term Rep. John Katko in a Syracuse-area swing district. Colleen Deacon, a former aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, has lined up support from high-profile Democrats, including her former boss and Sen. Charles Schumer. She faces Eric Kingson, a professor of social work at Syracuse University and Steve Williams, an attorney and Navy veteran.

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