Democrats say they reclaimed the New York Senate majority in a shocker and Republicans concede it was a rough night, but majority control of the Senate probably won’t begin to become clear for weeks while paper ballots are counted.
Democrats had 31 winners and Republicans had 30 with two races where Democrats are leading too close to call, according to unofficial results and before thousands of absentee ballots are counted. Thirty-two votes are required to pass measures in the Senate.
In the Assembly, Democrats added at least five seats to their 100-seat supermajority in the 150-seat chamber. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver won 84 percent of the vote. He was unscathed by a scandal in which he crafted a $103,000 settlement to end the first of two sets of sexual harassment charges against veteran Assemblyman Vito Lopez of Brooklyn. Lopez, censured by the Assembly and disciplined by Silver this summer, won re-election with 89 percent of the vote.
Silver spokesman Michael Whyland calls the Assembly Democrats’ gains further support of what he described as a progressive agenda that includes raising the minimum wage.
In the Senate, Republicans are counting on their ability to marshal absentee ballot voters to gain a larger share of the thousands of votes that could give them one or two seats. Most absentee counts, however, often split or mirror the vote tally on election night.
“It was a tremendous night,” said Sen. Michael Gianaris, who ran the Democratic effort where Republicans had a campaign cash advantage of nearly 5 to 1. “We have a clear majority. Voters of this state spoke in a unified voice in a way that is extremely rare in politics, delivering a very clear mandate that they want Democrats running the Senate.”
“It was a rough night,” said Sen. Thomas Libous of Broome County who ran the Republican campaigns. “I know my Democratic colleagues are crowing today, but I think they should be somewhat measured in their excitement because as they said in the last election, we must count every vote.”
Republicans face a nearly 2 to 1 Democratic enrollment advantage that is growing and came out in a big way Tuesday for President Barack Obama.
“It’s tough and it’s getting tough for us,” Libous said. “It’s challenging, but we’ll get through it and I believe on Jan. 1 we’ll still be in the majority.”
Republicans may get another seat because of a Brooklyn Democrat, conservative Simcha Felder, who won the 17th District on Tuesday and may sit with the Republicans. He beat Republican Sen. David Strobin, who won a special election in March to fill the seat of a Democrat convicted of corruption.
Republicans are also counting on continued alliance with the Independent Democratic Conference. The four breakaway Democrats in the conference repudiated the Democratic leadership when they left the Democrats in 2010 and allied closely with the Republicans. Republicans gave the independent members token or no opposition in Tuesday’s elections.
Sen. Jeffrey Klein of the IDC wouldn’t comment.
The fear on both sides is that a coalition might be needed, and the highly partisan Senate and factions among Democrats don’t handle power sharing easily. The Democrats’ last majority in 2008-2010 was marked by a GOP coup with dissident Democrats and embarrassing gridlock.
If Democrats prevail, the lynchpin to the majority may be the 46th District created by Republicans for their candidate.
Democrat Ceclia Tkaczyk, a political novice, had a 139-vote edge over Republican George Amedore, a well-known Assemblyman, according to unofficial results. Amedore’s Schenectady County district is the northern part of the new 46th Senate District.
Republicans created the 63rd Senate seat by connecting Republican suburbs from Montgomery County to Ulster County under redistricting this year, although Democrats still have a small enrollment edge.
Amedore on election night had delivered a tentative victory speech, pending the outcome in more districts. But Tkaczyk continued her late campaign surge from the southern Ulster County area of the district and later declared victory.
Democrat Ted O’Brien beat Republican Sean Hanna in the 55th District after apparently trailing Hanna in October’s Siena College poll. The district includes Monroe and Ontario counties.
Democrat Terry Gipson also appeared to narrowly win the 41st District in the Hudson Valley over veteran Republican Sen. Stephen Saland, who had the strong endorsement of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, head of the state Democratic party. Saland had cast the critical GOP vote for Cuomo’s bill to legalize gay marriage and as a result Saland was dogged by write-in Conservative Neil DiCarlo.
Just 1,603 votes, or 1.4 percentage points of the vote, separate Gipson and Saland. As many as 7,000 paper ballots will be counted.
“That, to me, virtually can’t be overcome,” said Steven Greenberg of the Siena College poll. “He would have to win over 60 percent of the absentees and he only got 40 percent of the vote. That would be very unusual.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.