50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 11. New York

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

11. New York

Capital: Albany

Nickname: The Empire State

Motto: Excelsior

(Ever Upwards)

About the State

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, New York state was home to Native Americans of the Iroquois and Algonquian tribes, who had developed an advanced economy and sophisticated cultural systems. In 1524, Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazzano – for whom the bridge connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn is named – sailed into New York Bay, but it was nearly another century until settlements began to arise. An Englishman, Henry Hudson, explored the river which now bears his name and set up a trading post – Fort Nassau – with the Native Americans, located where Albany now sits, but he was working for the Dutch East India Company, thus it was that nation that first lay claim to the land. New York City was called New Amsterdam by the Dutch but, when the English captured it during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, they renamed it after the Duke of York. The small trading post was regained by the Dutch in the third war between the two nations and they changed its title once more to New Orange. In 1674, the Treaty of Westminster handed control back to the British and thereafter the name remained as New York.

During the Revolutionary War, New York was the location of nearly one-third of the battles that were fought, including the Battle of Long Island, which took place in modern-day Brooklyn Heights. In 1777, the Americans achieved a significant victory in the Battle of Saratoga, a success that is now considered to be the major turning point in the war and that convinced the French to support the independence of the thirteen colonies. After the British had been defeated, the last remnant of their authority in America departed from Manhattan, as the final troops left on November 25th, 1783, later to be known as Evacuation Day. New York City was the first national capital – before Philadelphia and then the new city of Washington D.C. replaced it – and George Washington was sworn in as President in Lower Manhattan, on what is now Wall Street.

Although there were not battles fought there during the Civil War, the Union Army had more men from New York than any other state. After the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, locals feared that freed African-Americans would migrate north looking for work, adding to the competition for low-paid jobs in New York and sentiment was worsened when a draft lottery was announced. Those who could pay $300 were able to avoid being conscripted into the army and it led to working-class men – mostly of Irish descent – rioting for five days in New York City, during which African-Americans were targeted by the mob, with approximately 100 being killed.

In many areas, New York has been a pioneer of progression: the first steamboat line was started by Robert Fulton from New York to Albany; the Erie Canal was a monumental construction project that linked the Atlantic Ocean, via waterways, to the Great Lakes; in the 1850s, the political machine of Tammany Hall, led by “Boss” Tweed, was the most successful and enduring of its kind; Ellis Island was the main hub for immigration between 1892 and 1954, as more than 12 million immigrants were processed through there during that time; and at the beginning of the 20th century, new skyscrapers in New York City were regularly winning the moniker of “tallest building in the world”. After the Great Depression in 1929, then Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Temporary Emergency Relief Agency, whose goal was to provide a work-relief program for those most affected by the economic downturn, and was a progenitor of the nationwide New Deal he introduced after being elected President in 1932.

Ranked 27th in size, the more than 19.4 million residents of New York make it the 3rd most populous state – approximately 8.1 million of those are located in New York City, with Brooklyn alone being home to 2.5 million people, which by itself would make it the fifth biggest city in the United States, had it not joined forces with the other four boroughs in 1898. The state has been the birthplace of four Presidents (Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore, Theodore Roosevelt and FDR), and three more considered it home (Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland and Dwight D. Eisenhower). There are ten “Big Four” sports teams that affiliate themselves with the state – the New York Rangers and Islanders, as well as the Buffalo Sabres (NHL); New York Yankees and Mets (MLB); New York Knicks and the newly located, Brooklyn Nets (NBA); the New York Giants and Jets (who actually play in New Jersey), and the Buffalo Bills (NFL). Cooperstown, in Upstate, is the home of the baseball Hall of Fame.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 29

2008 Result: Obama 62.2% McCain 36.7%

Latest Poll: Obama +24%

New York has voted for the Democratic candidate in each of the last six Presidential elections and that trend will continue in November.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate election in New York this year, as the Democratic incumbent, Kirsten Gillibrand, faces off against the GOP candidate, Wendy Long. Gillibrand won a special election in 2010 – as she was appointed to the Senate to replace Hillary Clinton, who took the role of Secretary of State in President Obama’s administration – and is widely expected to win another term this November.

After reapportionment from the 2010 census, New York will have two fewer Representatives in the House, with its total now numbering 27. Currently, the Democratic Party has 21 seats to the GOP’s 8 and 11 of the 27 districts are expected to be close races, meaning control of the House could hinge on either side’s success in the state.

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