Photo via NY MTA

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will seek his third term in Albany during November’s midterm election, after beating Democratic challenger actress Cynthia Nixon in Thursday’s primary race. 

According to the New York Times, Gov. Cuomo trounced Nixon by 30 points, with election officials calling the race only half an hour after polls closed.

As the Democratic party continues to sort out its ideological response to Donald Trump’s firebrand conservatism, Thursday’s Empire State primary represented a microcosm of the party’s future at large, pitting Cuomo’s well-funded bureaucratic support against Nixon’s extremely progressive grassroots platform focused on immigrant rights, criminal justice reform, and cannabis legalization.  

“If Democrats are going to win in November, we have to stand for something,” Nixon wrote on Twitter after Thursday’s votes were tallied. “It’s not enough to just be better than Donald Trump. We have to give people something to show up and vote FOR.”

During his first two terms as Governor, Cuomo has been lauded for his work on increasing the minimum wage, gun control, and gay rights, but has also been mercilessly criticized for failing to significantly address deteriorating conditions in New York City’s subway system and increasing economic inequality across the Empire State.

When it comes to cannabis, Gov. Cuomo has historically planted one foot on either side of the legalization fence, speaking of criminal justice reform while refusing to push for any significant cannabis reform legislation. During the primary season though, with pressure mounting from Nixon’s cannabis-friendly campaign, Cuomo changed his tune, telling New Yorkers that he now fully supports legalization, and pushed for initial steps in the state capitol to turn those campaign promises into reality.

Last month, Cuomo established a legislative working group to craft draft legislation for adult-use cannabis legalization in the Empire State, and later announced 15 impending official listening sessions, where state leaders will hear opinions on cannabis reform from New York residents.

"Community input is critical as we work to draft balanced and comprehensive legislation on a regulated marijuana program in New York," Cuomo said in a statement announcing the initiative. "The multi-agency report identified the benefits of a regulated marijuana market, and with these listening sessions we are taking another important step to develop a model program for New York. We look forward to hearing what New Yorkers in every corner of the state have to say."

Cuomo will still need to defeat Republican challenger Marcus J. Molinaro in November’s upcoming midterm to secure his third term, but with New York’s deep blue track record, Thursday’s primary race may have been the Governor’s toughest electoral challenge this year. As for whether he will actually follow through with his campaign promises to continue the push for cannabis legalization if he is victorious in the fall, we’ll simply have to wait and see.