Poll Shows Tight Fight for Open NY Senate Seats


Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, speaks to reporters after a closed door Republican conference on the legalization of gay marriage, Wednesday, June 15, 2011 in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The first poll of the New York state Senate races shows just how close the fight for the power and perks of majority control will be in November.

In two seats being vacated by veterans, Democrats have an edge in keeping their Westchester Senate seat, while Republicans have an edge in keeping their longtime GOP seat.


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But the Westchester race is “extremely close,” while Republicans have an edge in the seat representing Monroe and Ontario counties despite the Democrats’ voter enrollment advantage, said Steven Greenberg of the Siena College poll.

In the 37th Senate District long held by Democrat Suzi Oppenheimer who is retiring, fellow Democrat George Lattimer has the support of 44 percent of likely voters polled. Republican Bob Cohen has 41 percent, with 15 percent undecided. Lattimer’s lead is within the poll’s margin of error.

In the 55th Senate District from which Republican James Alesi is retiring, Republican Sean Hanna had 47 percent to Democrat Ted O’Brien’s 39 percent. Fourteen percent were undecided.

Democrats see a weakness for Hanna in that he’s running in a district that the Senate’s Republican majority re-drew this year, and Hanna hasn’t hit 50 percent.

Still, Greenberg said, “The Democrats have their work cut out for them.” He notes the close race in the 37th Senate District and another in the 15th district in Queens, which Siena will poll next week. For Democrats to regain the majority they held from 2008-2010, they will need to win those two seats and three others.

Republicans, meanwhile, have the advantage of running in districts with new borders the GOP majority drew this year in the redistricting process conducted every 10 years. In addition, the Republicans have a substantial campaign cash advantage. Republicans had a nearly 5 to 1 funding advantage, according to the Board of Elections filings at the start of the campaign season.

But statewide, Democrats have a nearly 2 to 1 enrollment advantage. Democratic President Barack Obama is expected to draw more Democratic voters to the polls, which could boost the chances of Democrats running further down the ballot.

Republicans have a 33-29 majority now, along with the power that helps draw campaign contributions and support to the majority party. But Republicans also added a seat to the Senate with its new districts, approved by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Democrats may also have to overcome, or work with, the four members of the Independent Democratic Conference, which has worked closely with Cuomo in his alliances with the GOP majority.

Republicans said Wednesday’s poll results showed strong support.

Scott Reif, spokesman for the Republican majority, described Cohen as a “proven job creator who knows the importance of cutting taxes,” and said Hanna has “a record of working with Republicans and Democrats, like Governor Cuomo,” to control taxes.

Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy said the results show Democratic candidates overcoming the Republicans’ campaign cash advantage, so far outspending Democrats by millions on mailings and other campaigning.

“Senate Republicans and their right-wing extremist supporters have effectively been playing solitaire for the last month,” Murphy said. “Now the playing field is leveled as we enter the campaign season.”

The poll released Wednesday questioned 438 likely voters in the 37th Senate District in the Rochester area. It has a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points. Another 446 likely voters were questioned in the 55th District centered in Westchester. That survey has a margin of error of 4.7 points.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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