The presidential race could have big implications for the state government if voters hand the state Senate to Democrats, giving them control of both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s office.
“The momentum is with us,” said Sen. Mike Gianaris, who leads the Democrats’ Senate campaign efforts.
Gianaris, of Queens, claims that a perceived lack of enthusiasm for Trump and disillusionment with incumbent Republicans in the Senate will give his party an advantage.
Recent polls show Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has a big lead over Trump in New York state. Those surveys were conducted before Friday’s revelation that the FBI is reviewing additional emails possibly related to its investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified emails.
Republicans are eager to defend their last bastion of power in Albany and warn one-party rule by Democrats would lead to higher taxes and give too much power to New York City at the expense of upstate.
Sen. Kemp Hannon, of Long Island, said voters want to hear about taxes and education, not Donald Trump.
“The Republican majority has been pragmatic, middle of the road and problem-solving,” he said. “I think voters appreciate that.”
All 63 seats in the Senate and 150 seats in the Assembly are up for election this year. Democrats hold a commanding majority in the Assembly, and Republicans maintain a tenuous hold on the Senate thanks to an unusual agreement with five breakaway Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Conference.
Democrats hope to win enough seats to convince the Independent Democrats to return, and they’re focusing on a handful of competitive matchups on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley.
Republicans have led the Senate for most of the last 40 years. Many of the challengers are hoping voters are ready for change.
“People are sick of opening up the newspaper and reading about more corruption,” said Democrat Ryan Cronin, an attorney running against Hannon.
Republican candidates, meanwhile, are warning of higher taxes if Democrats win. Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan warns a Senate Democratic majority would become a tool of New York City liberals.
“Their extreme agenda is to tax the life out of hardworking, overburdened New Yorkers,” he said.
Fordham University political science professor Christina Greer said Democrats have reason to be “cautiously optimistic” about the Senate. But she said Democratic gains may not materialize if too many voters stay home on Nov. 8, possibly because they don’t like either presidential nominee.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pitching in by endorsing Democratic candidates and headlining Senate fundraisers. He said Senate Republicans are standing in the way of broad ethics reforms, criminal justice changes, tighter campaign finance restrictions and the Dream Act, which would extend financial aid to students in the country illegally.
If Democrats win, the Senate likely would be led by Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, of Yonkers, with IDC Leader Sen. Jeff Klein, of the Bronx, as co-leader.