The Republican takeover of New York’s state Senate poses a challenge to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who needs lawmakers to fulfill his promises to raise the minimum wage and get college funding for undocumented immigrants.
De Blasio, a self-described progressive, raised more than $1 million and allocated staff for Democratic state Senate candidates. A deal he brokered that gave Gov. Andrew Cuomo the support of the union-backed Working Families Party was supposed to lead to a Democratic takeover of the upper chamber. Instead, Republicans took 33 of 61 seats, winning a majority for the first time since 2010.
“It was more about Bill de Blasio taking over the state than it was about what people care about,” said Dean Skelos, the Long Island Republican who leads the Senate. “Our message resonated that it’s about jobs, it’s about the economy, it’s about taxes.”
In exchange for the Working Families ballot, Cuomo promised to back a Democratic takeover of the chamber and allow localities to raise the minimum wage. WFP officials said Cuomo didn’t follow through and that he hurt them by creating a separate ballot line for the Women’s Equality Party.
“He squandered millions on a fake party and left millions more in his campaign account as New York Democrats in the legislature and in Congress withered on the vine,” said Bill Lipton, the WFP’s state director.
Cuomo said in a radio interview Thursday that the loss was part of the national trend that put Republicans in control of the U.S. Senate.
“These things tend to move on large currents, and the current was a Republican tide, dissatisfaction with a Democratic administration in Washington premised on economic anxiety,” Cuomo said.
De Blasio now faces a recalcitrant chamber, said Doug Muzzio, a political-science professor at Baruch College in Manhattan.
“De Blasio’s agenda is dead on arrival because of a lack of ideological compatibility, and there’s going to be payback,” Muzzio said. “The Republicans are going to be ticked off.”
De Blasio said Wednesday he was looking toward 2016 to accomplish his agenda, a presidential election year, when turnout is typically higher among Democrats.
“Republicans are going to have to think long and hard about how they comport themselves on issues like the minimum wage,” he said. “A lot of Republicans will try to resist that. They do so at their own peril.”
The Republican minority now controls the Senate with a coalition of the five-member Independent Democrat Conference and Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat. There is talk of Sen.-elect Jesse Hamilton, a Democrat from Crown Heights, also joining.
While IDC chief Jeff Klein of the Bronx had promised to rejoin the traditional Democratic caucus next year, he said this week that he would remain with the GOP.
“I’ve had a great working relationship with Senator Skelos. I hope that continues,” Klein said at a conference in Puerto Rico. “And I hope he agrees with me — that a coalition government was not only good over the last couple of years, but is something that works really, really well in the months and years ahead.”