GOP, Democrats Each Claim Victory in Control of NY Senate

Waiting to cast votes Tuesday in New Square. (JDN)
Waiting to cast votes Tuesday in New Square. (JDN)

Democrats and Republicans both claimed victory Wednesday in key New York state Senate races that could determine who controls the chamber.

The outcome is likely to come down to two races on Long Island that remained especially tight. In one, Democrat John Brooks was 33 votes ahead of the incumbent, Republican Sen. Michael Venditto. In the second, Republican Sen. Carl Marcellino appeared to have defeated Democrat James Gaughran by 2,400 votes.

Democrats said all absentee ballots should be counted before a winner is declared in the Marcellino-Guaghran race. Marcellino said he was confident his victory would hold.

“It was pretty rough for a while,” Marcellino said of the race, which stayed close as the votes came in Tuesday. “But we stayed positive.”

It could take several days for all absentee votes to be counted and a final winner declared. Democrats are optimistic about their chances, according to Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy.

“When all the votes are counted, we expect that a majority of the sitting senators will be Democrats,” he said.

Republicans were also celebrating a win in a Buffalo-area district where Christopher Jacobs defeated Democrat Amber Small to win the seat that has been held by Democratic Sen. Marc Panepinto, who retired. Republican incumbents Sen. Kemp Hannon on Long Island and Sens. Sue Serino and Terrence Murphy in the Hudson River Valley were also re-elected, despite aggressive challenges from Democratic opponents.

Even if Democrats do pick up one or both of the Long Island races, Tuesday’s election was a disappointment to Senate Democrats, who had hoped Hillary Clinton’s popularity in the state would boost Democratic turnout and enable them to win a clear majority in the 63-member Senate. Clinton won New York by 21 percentage points before losing the presidential race to Republican Donald Trump.

Hannon said the outcome of the Senate elections came down to local issues, not presidential politics.

“We stayed with the basics that are important to people in the district: taxes, getting state support to school districts, transportation.

The Democrats’ effort to wrest Senate control from the Republicans is further complicated by the Senate’s unusual power structure. The chamber has three competing factions: Republicans, Democrats and a small breakaway group called the Independent Democratic Conference, which until now has broken ranks with Democrats to form a coalition with the GOP that puts Republicans in charge of the Senate.

Democrats were hoping to win enough seats Tuesday to convince the Independent Democrats to form a new coalition with Democratic Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, of Yonkers. They had argued that Democratic control of the Senate and Assembly would make it easier to pass governmental ethics reforms, stricter campaign finance rules and other priorities the GOP-led Senate has blocked.

Republicans warned one-party rule by Democrats would lead to higher taxes and give too much power to New York City at the expense of upstate.