New York Daily News


Sen­a­tors turbo-charge with two-thirds ma­jor­ity

- BY DE­NIS SLAT­TERY US Elections · U.S. News · US Politics · Politics · Elections · Albany · Democratic Party (United States) · Republican Party (United States) · The Bronx · New York City · Brooklyn · Kingston · John J. Flanagan · Manhattan · Queens · Yonkers · Carl Heastie · Maurice Hinchey · George Amedore · Canajoharie, NY · Rob Astorino · Michael Gianaris · Lockport

AL­BANY — Democrats have clinched a su­per­ma­jor­ity in the state Se­nate, they an­nounced Mon­day af­ter gain­ing enough seats to give them veto-proof con­trol of the Leg­is­la­ture.

The vic­tory, which comes two years af­ter Democrats wres­tled con­trol of the cham­ber away from Repub­li­cans, gives more lever­age to Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader An­drea Ste­wart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) as she and As­sem­bly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) ne­go­ti­ate bills and the state bud­get with fel­low Demo­crat Gov. Cuomo.

“By send­ing a su­per­ma­jor­ity of Se­nate Democrats to Al­bany, New York­ers have made it clear that they want gov­ern­ment to keep work­ing for them and stand­ing up for New York val­ues and for the hard­work­ing men and women of this state,” Ste­wart-Cousins said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Al­bany.

Se­nate Dems en­tered Elec­tion Day with a 40-seat con­fer­ence and only needed to add two more mem­bers to their ranks for a twothirds su­per­ma­jor­ity in the 63-seat cham­ber.

Elec­tion Day re­sults strong-fa­vored Repub­li­cans, who cam­paigned hard against bail and crim­i­nal jus­tice re­forms en­acted in re­cent years, giv­ing the GOP a glim­mer of hope that they could hold off the Democrats’ dreams.

But as ab­sen­tee bal­lots, in huge num­bers due to con­cerns about the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, were counted over the past three weeks it be­came clear that Dems would eas­ily add seats.

The first sign of things break­ing Democrats’ way came last week when fresh­men sen­a­tors in Brook­lyn and on Long Is­land de­feated GOP chal­lengers who had ap­peared to have large Elec­tion Day leads.

On Fri­day, Demo­crat Michelle Hinchey de­clared vic­tory in the 46th Se­nate Dis­trict race, re­plac­ing re­tir­ing Repub­li­can Sen. Ge­orge Ame­dore. The Hud­son Val­ley dis­trict stretches from Cana­jo­harie to Kingston.

Over the past two years, af­ter the blue wave washed over the Se­nate in 2018, there has been a rash of Repub­li­can re­tire­ments and res­ig­na­tions, in­clud­ing for­mer Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity leader John Flana­gan.

The open seats, es­pe­cially those in com­pet­i­tive up­state dis­tricts, proved to be the op­por­tu­nity Democrats needed to ex­pand their power.

Sev­eral races have yet to be called, in­clud­ing a com­pet­i­tive Westch­ester bat­tle be­tween Sen. Pete Har­ck­ham and for­mer GOP County Ex­ec­u­tive Rob As­torino.

Har­ck­ham trailed his Repub­li­can chal­lenger by more than 8,000 votes on Elec­tion night but has gained ground since as mail-in votes were tal­lied in Put­nam and Dutchess coun­ties.

The race will be de­cided by the es­ti­mated 25,000 out­stand­ing votes re­main­ing in Westch­ester, which will likely fa­vor Har­ck­ham.

Gov. Cuomo shrugged off the newly em­pow­ered Leg­is­la­ture, say­ing he doesn’t see an is­sue in which he and Dem law­mak­ers would dif­fer enough that a veto over­ride would be needed and noted that the bud­get process won’t change all that much.

“The way it is, state gov­ern­ment re­ally works through the bud­get. All the main things are done in the bud­get and su­per­ma­jor­ity or not, it doesn’t re­ally make a dif­fer­ence,” he said dur­ing a press brief­ing in Man­hat­tan. “I don’t think there’s ever been a sit­u­a­tion where I dis­agree with ev­ery Se­nate Demo­crat.”

Top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa noted that the gov­er­nor helped raise funds for sev­eral Dems.

“We were thrilled that a bunch of the mem­bers that looked like, on Elec­tion night, they weren’t go­ing to make have now pulled through,” she said.

De­spite the machi­na­tions of Al­bany and the gov­er­nor’s out­sized role in the bud­get process, a su­per­ma­jor­ity will have wide-rang­ing im­pacts, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the 2022 re­dis­trict­ing process.

The once-a-decade over­haul will see all state leg­isla­tive and con­gres­sional dis­tricts re­drawn.

Un­der cur­rent rules, a su­per­ma­jor­ity vote is needed in the Se­nate to ap­prove a re­dis­trict­ing plan and avoid the is­sue be­ing handed off to the courts to fig­ure out.

Democrats have con­trolled the As­sem­bly for years, but strug­gled over the past cou­ple of decades to gain ground in the Se­nate as a break­away cau­cus handed power to Repub­li­cans.

That changed in 2018 when Dems’ won enough seats to take over the cham­ber and have gone on to pass sev­eral pieces of long-stalled leg­is­la­tion in­clud­ing the Child Vic­tims Act as well as crim­i­nal jus­tice, hous­ing and voter re­forms.

Now, the solidly blue Leg­is­la­ture will re­con­vene in Jan­uary with even more mem­bers.

“No ma­jor­ity has ever done bet­ter in an elec­tion in this state’s his­tory,” said Sen. Michael Gia­naris (D-Queens), who heads the Se­nate Dems cam­paign arm.

“This was a man­date by the vot­ers, a man­date ... to keep do­ing things for the peo­ple of the state that they want done, they ex­pect done and they have been wait­ing for decades to get done.”

Gia­naris also knocked Repub­li­cans for their pre­ma­ture cel­e­bra­tions and took a dig at Cuomo dur­ing his vic­tory lap re­marks.

“A mes­sage was sent by the vot­ers, let’s be clear about that,” he said.

“Let’s be clear about some­thing else — the Repub­li­cans did not beat the Democrats on the mes­sag­ing as some have said.”

The com­ment was a ref­er­ence to Cuomo’s claim in the wake of the elec­tion that Repub­li­cans “beat Democrats on the mes­sag­ing.”

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Rob Ortt (R-Lock­port) of­fered no con­grat­u­la­tions to his col­leagues on the other side of the aisle.

“If New York­ers thought one-party con­trol was bad, more Democrats in the New York state Se­nate will usher in a new era of rad­i­cal, in­creas­ingly so­cial­ist poli­cies, un­like any­thing be­fore seen in this state,” he said in a state­ment.

 ??  ?? State Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader An­drea Ste­wart-Cousins and As­sem­bly Speaker Carl Heastie re­joice at the late-ar­riv­ing elec­tion re­sults, while Gov. Cuomo takes it in stride.
State Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader An­drea Ste­wart-Cousins and As­sem­bly Speaker Carl Heastie re­joice at the late-ar­riv­ing elec­tion re­sults, while Gov. Cuomo takes it in stride.

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