Gov. Andrew Cuomo wins Democratic primary, defeating Cynthia Nixon

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Rob Nelson reports on the New York Primary election results.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo easily beat back a primary challenge from activist and actress Cynthia Nixon on Thursday, thwarting her attempt to become the latest insurgent liberal to knock off an establishment Democrat.

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Cuomo, who always led in the polls and outspent his rival more than 8 to 1, seldom mentioned Nixon by name during an often-nasty campaign, instead touting his experience, achievements in two terms as governor and his work to push back against President Donald Trump.

In his moment of victory, Cuomo was oddly silent, skipping his own election-night party in Manhattan to celebrate with family at the governor's mansion in Albany. He put out a tweet that said simply "Thank You New York." His campaign declined to issue a statement.

"It's New York's obligation to stand up and lead and lead against a lot of these changes in Washington that are totally opposite of who we are as New Yorkers and what we believe," he said earlier at his Westchester County polling place. "There is a divisiveness coming out of Washington that I think is cancerous to this nation."

Thursday's results were good across the board for Cuomo, whose preferred candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general also survived contentious primaries. And despite Nixon's loss, liberals celebrated victories for several left-leaning challengers who ousted longtime legislative incumbents.

With registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans more than 2 to 1 in New York, Cuomo becomes the automatic front-runner in November's matchup with Republican Marc Molinaro and independent Mayor Stephanie Miner.

Nixon, a longtime education activist and actress best known for her Emmy-winning role as lawyer Miranda Hobbes on HBO's "Sex and the City," was counting on a boost from liberals looking to oust establishment politicians. She called herself a democratic socialist and pointed to recent congressional primary victories by New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts' Ayanna Pressley as evidence that underdog challengers can defy the odds.

When that didn't happen, Nixon thanked supporters and credited her campaign for helping to push Cuomo to the left and show that liberals have a shot at making big changes.

"Before we take our country back we have to take our party back," she said. "This is an incredible moment for progressives but it's not just a moment. It's a movement."

Cuomo, who won with about 65 percent of vote, secured endorsements from Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and even Nicki Minaj, and spent much of the race touting his own liberal accomplishments such as same-sex marriage, gun control and paid family leave. And he increasingly made the race about pushing back against Trump and other Republicans. At the same time, he dismissed Nixon as a naive dilettante and mocked her work as an actress.

"If it was all about name recognition," he said earlier this year, "then I'm hoping Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and Billy Joel don't get into the race."

Despite the rhetoric, Cuomo took Nixon seriously, spending $8.5 million, largely on ads, in the final weeks of the campaign to answer attacks that he has not invested enough in New York City's beleaguered subway system and failed to deliver on upstate economic development promises.

There were indications that the 52-year-old Nixon's aggressive campaign pushed the incumbent governor to the left on several issues, including legalizing marijuana and addressing crumbling public housing in New York City.

In the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, incumbent Kathy Hochul, a former congresswoman from Buffalo, defeated challenger Jumaane Williams, a New York City councilman who had promised if elected to serve as a check on Cuomo. Hochul, a former congresswoman from Buffalo, now moves on to the November general election as the running mate of Gov. Cuomo, who first picked her to run beside him in the 2014 election.

Hochul spent much of the campaign touting the Cuomo administration's achievements, while Williams, a New York City councilman, promised to serve as a check on Cuomo if elected. Under New York law, candidates for lieutenant governor and governor run separately during the primary but as a single ticket in the general election.

Julie Killian is the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor and will run alongside Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro.

Cuomo's pick for attorney general, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, won a four-way Democratic primary that essentially was a competition over who could best use the office to antagonize President Donald Trump.

An attorney who worked for Gov. Cuomo and Hillary Clinton defeated the former leader of a Democratic splinter group that helped Republicans keep control of New York's state senate. Alessandra Biaggi defeated Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein on Thursday in the Democratic primary for the 34th state Senate district. Biaggi challenged Klein, saying more progressive leaders were needed in office.

Klein formerly led the senate's Independent Democratic Conference. The group of eight Democrats broke with their party for years to support Republican control of the chamber. The split allowed Republican leaders to keep bills on gun control and abortion from coming to a vote.

The breakaway Democrats reunified with the party earlier this year in a deal that saw Klein become the Senate's No. 2 Democrat.

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