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NY State Senate Control Unknown Amid Close Races


The New York State Capitol building in Albany

A wild night of seesawing race totals and margins as close as a single vote Tuesday have left majority control of New York’s state Senate uncertain, but with Republicans having a good chance of seizing control of the chamber.

Democrats and Republicans traded wins and losses into Wednesday, and majority control appeared to depend upon two races, one in which incumbent Democrat Sen. Craig Johnson of Long Island was trailing and another in which incumbent Democrat Sen. Antoine Thompson of Erie County had a narrow lead.


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That will likely leave majority control of the chamber to recounts and absentee ballots in a process that could take weeks.

“It appears we have won at least 32 seats, possibly 33,” said Scott Reif of the Republican Senate campaign committee.

Democrats weren’t claiming victory.

“After three of our challengers claimed significant victories, we remain optimistic, but there are still thousands of votes to be counted, and every vote counts,” said Austin Shafran, spokesman for Democratic Senate campaign committee.

The result also could be a tie among the highly partisan conferences in the 62-seat Senate. Democrats now have a 32-30 majority, achieved just two years ago.

A tie would leave no clear majority, even though the Democratic Lt. Gov.-elect Robert Duffy could break at least some ties, although whether that would include anything but procedural matters remains unclear.

The chaos at the end of Election Day was fitting for the chamber that has been in high political mode since Democrats seized the majority after a half-century of Republican rule.

The Democrats’ one-vote margin in the face of a unified Republican bloc led to gridlock and power plays that became a national embarrassment.

The influential gay rights’ advocate Empire State Pride Agenda said it had volunteers knock on more than 10,000 doors in Queens, staffed phone banks, sent mailers and helped 2,000 college-age residents to vote to help Democrat Tony Avella defeat Republican Sen. Frank Padavan. Avella had 53 percent of the unofficial vote with all precincts reporting.

“Tony Avella’s defeat of Senator Frank Padavan is good news and a significant step forward for all who support equality and justice for New York’s (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) families,” said Pride Agenda Executive Director Ross D. Levi. “Avella’s win is a huge victory for us and for all New Yorkers.”

A bill to legalize gay marriage was lost in the Senate a year ago, but Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo hopes to revive the measure.

The count was as close as a single vote in Johnson’s 7th district on Long Island against Republican Jack Martins.

Republican Lee Zeldin, however, won 57 percent of the vote to beat Democratic Sen. Brian Foley in Suffolk County’s 3rd Senate District, according to the unofficial vote.

In the 37th Senate District in Westchester County, Democratic Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, in office since 1984, had a 180-vote margin or 50.1 percent of the vote over Republican Bob Cohen, owner of a construction and real estate company.

In the 38th district in Orange and Rockland counties, Democrat David Carlucci won 53 percent of the vote to defeat Scott Vanderhoef, the Republican Rockland County executive. That was a seat vacated by the death of Republican Sen. Thomas Morahan.

In northern New York’s 48th district, Republican Patty Ritchie had 52 percent of the vote in beating Democratic Sen. Darrel Aubertine.

In the heavily Democratic 60th district, Democratic Sen. Antoine Thompson had a 258-vote lead, or 50.2 percent of the vote against defense attorney Mark Grisanti in the district that includes parts of Erie and Niagara counties. In the nasty race, Grisanti said Thompson should resign over his role in a New York City scandal involving Senate Democrats.

The majority party in each chamber redraws election district lines after every census. The process traditionally protects incumbents and majority power until the next redistricting.

Democrats easily maintained their majority in the 150-seat Assembly though there could be enough losses to erode the 100-seat minimum needed for the party to override a governor’s veto.

By MICHAEL GORMLEY,Associated Press

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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