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Your All-Purpose Guide to New York's Primary Election

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Next Tuesday, we vote.

To begin with, if you're registered as an independent, you're off the hook as far as the primary is concerned. In fact, you're practically invisible. The district boundaries for Congress and the state legislature have been gerrymandered so efficiently that by the time it's your turn to vote in November, the only choices will be between the inevitable winner and a sacrificial lamb.

Governor - If you're a Republican, whatever else you do, vote for Rick Lazio for governor. I don't care what your political philosophy is. I don't care if Rick Lazio dumped your sister a week before her junior prom, leaving permanent emotional scars. Carl Paladino, the other guy on the ballot, isn't just a loudmouthed Tea Party type whose platform is full of ideas that are both politically impossible and completely illegal. He's also a person who sends his friends racist e-mails because he thinks they're funny. Let's get this one over with.

If you're a Democrat, Andrew Cuomo is already your gubernatorial nominee. He's inevitable. Get used to it.

Senate - Chuck Schumer is running for another six year-term, unopposed on the Democratic side. The Republicans have a primary between Gary Berntsen, a retired CIA operative who worked in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, and Jay Townsend. Townsend's Web site says he is "a husband, father, and small businessman whose disgust with the course of our nation and decline of New York led him to enter the race." Bernsten is the Tea Party choice. I would go for him just because it would give us a chance to find out how Berntsen lost Osama bin Laden's trail.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is being primaried by an attorney, Gail Goode, whose platform seems to be: "There Should Be a Primary." And there is. Good work, Gail Goode, whoever you are.

On the Republican side, you have Bruce Blakeman, a pol from Long Island who once ran for state comptroller in what would be regarded as one of the worst campaigns in history if anyone actually paid attention to comptroller campaigns. Joseph DioGuardi is best known for being the father of American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi, and since she's being axed from the show, he will soon be known for nothing at all. The third candidate, David Malpass, is running on the slogan "Serious Times, Serious Senator," which is better than "I Used to be Chief Economist at Bear Stearns." Of the three, he seems to be the least pathetic.

Attorney General - Among the five Democratic candidates, some people are bothered that Kathleen Rice, the Nassau County District Attorney, didn't start voting until she was 37 years old. Maybe that someone is you, particularly next Tuesday after you drag yourself to the polling place. Sean Coffey, a former federal prosecutor who is wealthy enough to pay for his own campaign, is part of a law firm that gave political donations to everyone from the Ohio Republican Party to New York comptroller Alan Hevesi, apparently with an eye toward doing business with various state pension funds. The other three are state Senator Eric Schneiderman, Richard Brodsky, a long-time Assemblyman, and Eric Dinallo, a former Superintendent of Insurance. They all have reform backgrounds and you really can't go wrong. Or, if you can, the odds are about the same for each of them.

U.S. House - Carolyn Maloney, who represents the East Side of Manhattan and part of Queens, is getting a run for her money from Reshma Saujani, a newcomer who's running on the not unreasonable argument that somebody else should get a turn. Maloney has been in office forever and is not particularly well-liked. But this is due to her personality rather than anything about her work. Don't invite her to dinner, but you might want to vote for her. She works hard and has a ton of seniority, which will come in handy now that Charlie Rangel has lost all his mojo.

And speaking of His Rangelness, there are five people running against him for the Democratic nomination. Rangel, who's 80, wants to hang around long enough to fight to clear his name of the multiple ethics charges hanging over him in Congress. Whatever Congress decides, the fact that he was hanging onto four rent-stabilized apartments should be enough for his constituents. The man doesn't know how to share. Unfortunately, the only other person in the race with any organization behind him is Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell, who is widely regarded as an idiot. So the question is whether you want to keep Rangel around just so he can leave on his own terms, or risk letting Powell win and hang onto the seat for the next several decades. The Times endorsed Joyce Johnson, if you want to go with one of the hapless-but-unsullied options.

Why bother voting? Some of the primary contests make a difference. Also, some day you might decide you want to run for Attorney General, and everybody will be demanding to know why you never even bothered to show up in 2010. Think of it as a resume-building activity.