Election time in New York on odd-numbered years can inspire a bit of yawning.

It’s a local race! Why should it matter? But there are both patterns to watch for today and potential dominoes that might fall that could have reverberations into the 2020 election.

Next year, the power divide in the state Senate, now held by Democrats, will once again be closely watched. Competitive races for the House of Representatives on Long Island, Staten Island and in the Hudson and Mohawk valleys are already expected, with the contours shaping themselves impeachment.

And of course it’s a presidential election year, making whomever is at the top of the ticket for the Democrats, and President Trump himself, a focal point for a platform that will flow down the ballot.

But first we’ve got the local races to watch.

1. The county executive races.

More so than any other election in an off-cycle year, the county executive races can be bellwethers for the next year. Remember the Democratic bloodbath in 2010? It was preceded by Republican successes at the county executive level. The same held true in 2017, when Democrats won the county executive offices in Westchester and Nassau counties. Voters are deciding whether to re-elect Republicans in Dutchess, Onondaga and Monroe counties as well as Democratic incumbents in Erie and Suffolk counties. These are key county posts for both parties, especially Suffolk County, which President Trump carried in 2016.

“Usually they’re a bit of a talisman,” said Bruce Gyory, a former gubernatorial advisor and now a SUNY Albany adjunct professor. “The county exec races tend to predict what’s going to happen in some of those key counties in terms of partisan balance.”

2. Republicans and George Soros.

A campaign in Monroe County is testing just how much voters on the local level care if liberal financier George Soros is involved. A political action committee linked to Soros, the New York Justice & Public Safety PAC, has spent a combined $800,000 Republican District Attorney Sandra Doorley or supporting her challenger Shani Curry Mitchell. Soros has been a boogeyman for Republicans in the past. Democrats, however, have cast any effort to inject Soros as a negative into a race as a veiled anti-Semitic appeal. What the controversy tell us is this: In an age in which criminal justice policy is a major battleground, district attorney races perhaps matter more than an ever as a means for how that policy can be carried out.

3. The state Senate.

Oh, you thought we were done with the state Senate for at least one more year? You’d be wrong. In western New York, Republican George Borrello and Democrat Austin Morgan are running for the seat vacated earlier this year by Sen. Cathy Young. Meanwhile, another vacancy in the Senate could be created if Republican Sen. Bob Antonacci wins a judgeship in central New York. Antonacci’s seat, held previously by Sen. John DeFrancisco, has been viewed as a potential pickup by Democrats.

4. What’s up with Troy?

The small city on the Hudson River just north of Albany has seen its share of hard-nosed politics. But 2019 is a standout year for Troy politics, where Republican Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin, using colorful language, has sought to squeeze the GOP candidate Tom Reale out of the race. In a recording published this week by the Times Union, McLaughlin was heard profanely pushing Reale out of the race, a move meant to benefit independent candidate Rodney Wiltshire against incumbent Democrat Patrick Madden.


-Ranked-choice voting is being considered by voters in New York City, part of a slate of ballot referendums as part of a package of proposed charter revisions. If approved, voters would be able to rank multiple candidates in order of preference. The idea has the backing of presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who has said he will vote for it.

“There are historical periods of bipartisanship that we can learn from. We can also learn from states that have undertaken structural reforms – such as ranked-choice voting – intended to help government better serve the people,” Yang said in a statement.

“If we’re bold enough to consider and adapt even a fraction of these changes, we can take a significant step in restoring trust in our federal government.”

-What will turnout be like? This was the first year of early voting, with voters heading to polling locations nine days before Election Day itself. Preliminary numbers show turnout was 1.9 percent, according to the state Board of Elections. It will take a few more years to potentially bump that number up or if that’s simply a baseline for who will turnout early. Overall, voting tends to be lower in off-cycle years, when many voters are considering races for judge, voting for candidates they’ve never heard of, and many local offices uncontested.