ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The most polarizing election in a generation wraps Tuesday, and even in a solidly blue state like New York, candidates for Congress and the state Legislature will be fighting for every last vote in a handful of battleground districts.
With emotions running high, security precautions were being implemented in New York City and elsewhere because of fears of potential civil unrest.
Some Manhattan businesses boarded up their windows as a precaution Monday, including Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square, high-end retailers in SoHo and tourist destinations like Rockefeller Center. Boards were up around many glass storefronts near Trump Tower.
The NYPD asked business owners to clear sidewalks of items that could be used as barricades or projectiles, like chairs, tables, construction barrels and trash cans.
At the ballot box, Democrat Joe Biden is widely expected to defeat President Donald Trump in the race for New York’s Electoral College votes. But there are tough fights underway on Long Island and in central New York in congressional districts nearly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.
Polls close at 9 p.m. Tuesday. A record 3.5 million votes had already been cast as of Monday. That included more than 2.5 million votes cast in early voting and at least another 1 million absentee ballots turned in as of Friday, according to the state Board of Election. Any ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be counted.
The winners in some blowout contests could become available right away, but with so many votes cast by mail, close races could take weeks to decide. New York counties aren’t allowed to start counting absentee ballots until Nov. 6 at the earliest. Many typically wait a week.
The weakened state of the Republican Party in the New York City metropolitan area is setting up Democrats for some expected easy victories, including a pair of candidates who could make history as the first two openly gay Black people elected to Congress.
But outside political committees have poured at least $72 million into other, more competitive House races in the state, roughly double the amount those types of groups spent on similar races in 2018.
Democrats could also gain a veto-proof majority in the state legislature by winning just two more seats in the 63-seat Senate. A victory like that could give lawmakers more leverage with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, now a dominant force in state politics.
The election is also an important one for the Working Families Party, a minor party that has a track record of supporting progressives challenging Democratic incumbents in party primaries. Under new state rules, it could lose its automatic place on the ballot if not enough people vote under its ballot line.
Some big-name Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, have been urging voters to vote for Biden on the Working Families line in order to help the party meet the threshold.
Here’s a look at New York’s most closely watched races:
Republican U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin is trying to fend off a challenge on eastern Long Island from Democrat Nancy Goroff. Zeldin is seeking a fourth term. He praised President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as “phenomenal” during a speech to the Republican National Convention. Goroff is a chemistry professor who took a leave from Stony Brook University to seek office for the first time.
Republican Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino and Democrat Jackie Gordon face off in a race to succeed U.S. Rep. Pete King, a popular Republican who is retiring. The contest on Long Island’s South Shore is taking place in a district that has tilted Republican in the past, but King’s departure has created an opening for the Democrats, who have poured money into Gordon’s campaign.
Republican Nicole Malliotakis tries to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Max Rose, who is seeking his second term. The district is whiter and more conservative than the rest of New York City and strongly favored Trump in 2016. Rose is an Army combat veteran. Malliotakis has been a state Assembly member since 2011. She unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2017.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the prohibitive favorite in her first reelection bid. The New York City Democrat faces Republican John Cummings, a teacher and former police officer. Ocasio-Cortez has become one of the most well-known voices of the American left in her first term. Her district in parts of Queens and the Bronx was among those hit hardest by the coronavirus.
Democrat Ritchie Torres is poised to become one of the first openly gay Black men in Congress. Torres, a 32-year-old member of the New York City Council representing the Bronx, faces Republican Patrick Delices in one of the most heavily Democratic districts in the country. Torres, who identifies as Afro-Latino, would succeed U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano, who is retiring.
Democrat Jamaal Bowman is the heavy favorite after dispatching U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in the state’s spring primary. Bowman faces Conservative Party candidate Patrick McManus, a retired firefighter, in a district that includes parts of the Bronx and New York City’s Westchester County suburbs. There is no Republican candidate.
Democrat Mondaire Jones would join Torres as the other first openly gay Black man in Congress if he prevails over opponents including Republican Maureen McArdle Schulman and Conservative Party candidate Yehudis Gottesfeld. Jones is a 33-year-old attorney. The winner will succeed U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, a Democrat retiring after three decades representing a district in Rockland and Westchester counties.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney faces Republican Chele Farley in New York’s Hudson Valley. Farley moved to the district from New York City after an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate in 2018. Maloney is one of just a few dozen Democrats nationwide who represent congressional districts where a majority of voters favored Trump in 2016. He is seeking his fifth term.
Military veteran Kyle Van De Water, a Republican, tries to knock off Democratic U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, who is seeking a second term in a district stretching from New York City’s northern suburbs to rural counties near Albany. Delgado is another rare Democrat representing a congressional district that voted for Trump in 2016. Van De Water, 40, has run on a pro-Trump platform. He has promised a stronger U.S. border, tax cuts and 2nd Amendment protections.
Former Republican U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney is in a rematch with U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, who ousted her from office in 2018 but is now seen as one of the more vulnerable Democrats in Congress. The district, which runs from Lake Ontario to the Pennsylvania border, was another one that favored Trump in 2016. Two years ago, the first Tenney-Brindisi matchup took weeks to decide as absentee ballots were tabulated.
U.S. Rep. John Katko is also in a rematch, facing Democrat Dana Balter after defeating her in 2018. Katko seeks a fourth term in a central New York district that includes the city of Syracuse. Balter, 44, has worked as a community organizer and at a disability services non-profit but has not held public office. Democrats narrowly outnumber Republicans in the district.
Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020.