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In blow to Bernie Sanders, NY cancels Democratic presidential primary

In blow to Bernie Sanders, NY cancels Democratic presidential primary

New York will not have a Democratic presidential primary election in 2020. 

The state's Democratic election commissioners, Douglas Kellner and Andrew Spano, decided Monday to remove candidates who suspended their presidential campaigns from the ballot. With former Vice President Joe Biden the only candidate remaining in the race, the primary has been canceled. 

The presidential primary was scheduled for April 28, but it was postponed until June 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The state budget approved in April included a provision that allows the Board of Elections to drop presidential candidates from the primary ballot if they suspend their campaigns. Biden's competitors, including Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, dropped out of the race. Sanders also endorsed Biden in mid-April.

Sanders and his supporters wanted New York to keep the senator's name on the ballot so he could have more influence in developing the Democratic Party's platform at the convention this summer. But the Democratic election commissioners didn't view the primary as necessary now that Biden is the lone Democrat in the race and the party's presumptive nominee. 

"Senator Sanders has not only announced that he's suspending his campaign but he's also announced a public endorsement of Joe Biden," Kellner said. "That has effectively ended the real context for the primary election." 

Sanders' supporters, including his New York delegates, hoped to prevent the cancellation of the primary. They sent letters to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state election commissioners urging them to hold the primary. 

George Albro, co-chair of the New York Progressive Action Network, said on April 15 that removing Sanders and other presidential candidates from the ballot would be "undemocratic and un-American." 

Our Revolution, a political action committee founded by Sanders, blasted the state's decision to cancel the primary. Larry Cohen, chair of the group's board, accused New York of violating Democratic National Committee rules. 

"Instead of working to create a party where everyone has a voice, this decision suppresses those who support the progressive policies championed by Bernie Sanders," Cohen said. "And it foments division in the Democratic Party at a time when we need to unify around our common quest to defeat Donald Trump." 

Cohen added that they will challenge New York's delegates before the DNC's credentials committee.

The cancellation of the presidential primary is the latest change to the political calendar in New York. Five state legislative special elections planned for April 28 were moved to June 23. On Friday, Cuomo canceled the special elections. 

Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at

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