Leaders of New York’s Conservative Party, one of just two so-called third parties in the state with a ballot line, have been jubilant about the 2021 general election results. The party helped win victories in several local races and to defeat three ballot questions that would have made changes to legislative redistricting and voting rights. But the party went its own way in nominating candidates for citywide positions and key races on Staten Island, unlike most years when it endorsed the Republican nominee, and its nominees garnered few votes in the general election.

The Conservative Party has 163,425 registered members statewide and only 21,803 in New York City, growing marginally since the last citywide election cycle in 2017. The party has endured challenges to keep its automatic place on the ballot and often over-performs by wide margins in terms of the votes its nominees garner in elections compared to its voter enrollment numbers.

More often than not, the Conservative Party backs Republican nominees through New York’s fusion voting system, where candidates can run on multiple ballot lines and accumulate the votes. The two parties' interests typically dovetail and lend each other support in elections, especially important in New York where Democrats have large voter enrollment advantages, both statewide and especially in New York City. 

This year, however, the Conservatives fielded their own candidates in nine key races out of 39 in which they made an endorsement across the city, including for civil court judge and supreme court justice. In the rest, the party-backed candidate was also the Republican nominee.

There’s no clear reason for the split between the Conservatives and Republicans this year. The Conservatives made early endorsements in some races, but citywide Republican candidates apparently failed to even seek their support, according to one Conservative party official. Though that may not be indicative of intentional strategy, it does seem to show some disorganization and disunity among city Republicans themselves.

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