New York Senate Makeup Is Unclear, but Talk Turns to Which Party Will Lead
By Thomas Kaplan New York Times November 7, 2012
Democrats on Wednesday began preparing to lead the New York State Senate after shocking the political establishment with strong performances in a number of contests on Tuesday.
But Republicans said they believed that uncounted absentee ballots would allow them to retain their majority, and political experts warned that even if Democrats won a numerical majority, their membership was so fragmented that they might be unable to win a leadership election in the Senate.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat who has successfully worked with the Republican Senate majority to advance major elements of his agenda, but who has also seen some of his priorities stymied by the Republicans, remained silent on Wednesday as attention turned to a few counties in the Mohawk and Hudson Valleys that will begin counting absentee ballots later this month in two unresolved races.
Republicans currently hold 33 of the 62 seats in the Senate. On Tuesday, Democrats had clearly won 31 seats and Republicans 30 in a chamber that will grow to 63 seats next year because of redistricting.
In the two remaining races, Democrats were ahead: In the Poughkeepsie area, the Democrat, Terry W. Gipson, led Senator Stephen M. Saland, a Republican, by about 1,600 votes. In the new, 63rd district in the capital region, the Democrat, Cecilia F. Tkaczyk, led the Republican, George A. Amedore Jr., a state assemblyman, by about 140 votes.
Republicans said they were optimistic that Mr. Amedore would win, saying he had an aggressive absentee-ballot operation. And they said they had not given up on Mr. Saland’s chances, either.
“We believe that come Jan. 1 there will be an operating, functioning majority in the State Senate and we expect to be part of it,” said Senator Thomas W. Libous, a Binghamton Republican and the leader of his party’s campaign team. The State Senate is the last Republican stronghold in Albany; Democrats control the Assembly and hold all statewide elected offices.
But Democrats declared on Wednesday that they had achieved a majority. The leader of their campaign efforts, Senator Michael N. Gianaris of Queens, called the results “about as clear a mandate as ever about what direction the people of the state want the Senate to go in.”
Experts in both parties said President Obama’s strong performance in the state, where he beat Mitt Romney by more than 25 percentage points, benefited Democratic legislative candidates.
And while Republicans had a large fund-raising advantage in the Senate races, Democrats were helped by an independent-expenditure campaign by the New York State and New York City teachers’ unions, which poured more than $3 million into some critical races. In some cases, the outlay dwarfed spending by the individual candidates: the effort included $600,000 to aid Mr. Gipson, who two weeks before the election had less than $27,000 in his campaign account.
Michael Mulgrew, the president of the city’s United Federation of Teachers, said union officials were unhappy with Senate Republicans because they had successfully moved to reduce pension benefits for future public workers and sought to change teacher seniority rules. He accused Republicans like Mr. Saland of embracing “teacher bashing” by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and others.
“It was just like, ‘Enough already,’ ” Mr. Mulgrew said.
Even as the outcome of all of the elections remains unresolved, it is unclear whether Senate Democrats, even with a numerical majority, could win a vote to choose a majority leader to control the chamber.
Last year, four Democrats unhappy with the Senate Democratic leadership declared themselves members of a new Independent Democratic Conference, and since then they have worked closely with the Senate Republicans.
The Independent Democrats did not respond to phone messages on Wednesday, but the group, which is led by Senator Jeffrey D. Klein of the Bronx, released a three-sentence statement that said only that in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers needed “a strong, stable government now more than ever.”
Another Democrat, Simcha Felder, who on Tuesday defeated Senator David Storobin, a Brooklyn Republican, also has not ruled out voting with the Republicans. His campaign manager said Wednesday that Mr. Felder would ally with senators “from any party who will provide the most for his community.”
Senator Libous, the Republican campaign leader, questioned whether the Democrats would be able to manage the internal politics of their caucus, saying, “We offer so much more stability.”
But his Democratic counterpart, Senator Gianaris, expressed confidence that lawmakers elected as Democrats would vote to elect a Democratic leader.
“I would hope that with the majority of the Senate being elected as Democrats, those elected will heed the preference of those they represent and come together to achieve the progressive goals that we share,” Mr. Gianaris said.
Seymour P. Lachman, a former Democratic state senator who represented Brooklyn and Staten Island and is now the director of the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College, said the wavering Democrats would play a crucial role in determining the Senate’s leadership.
“They have to decide, when push comes to shove, are they Democrats or are they covert Republicans,” Mr. Lachman said.
Senate GOP’s Libous: “It Was a Tough Night For Us”
By Jon Campbell Gannett News Service November 7, 2012
The head of the state Senate Republicans’ campaign efforts said he remained “optimistic” Wednesday despite Democrats appearing to have made major gains on Election Day.
Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, said he’s still expecting to have 32 votes-the minimum needed for a majority-in his conference after the paper ballots are counted.
“It was a tough night for us, but all is not lost,” Libous said on Talk1300AM (WGDJ) in Albany on Wednesday.
Specifically, Libous pointed to the too-close-to-call 46th Senate district, where Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk currently holds a 139-vote lead over Republican Assemblyman George Amedore. Libous also expressed confidence that Democrat Simcha Felder, who defeated Sen. David Storobin in a Brooklyn district, would conference with the GOP...