There will likely be 32 Democrats and 31 Republicans in the 63-member New York State Senate when it reconvenes next month, but the GOP will control the state Legislature’s upper chamber. How can this be?
The short answer is because state Senator Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat, said he will continue to caucus with the GOP’s state Senators, thereby keeping state Senator John Flanagan (R-East Northport) as the state Senate’s majority leader. Senator Felder gives the Republicans their 32nd vote.
The longer answer is because state Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester) and six other breakaway Democrats formed a group years ago called the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). IDC members consider themselves as free agents in Albany. This means, if the Democrats were to attempt a party-line vote in the state Senate, only 25 Senators, at best, could be counted upon to pass a measure that needs the support of 32 Senators.
The Republicans’ state Senate majority could rise to 33-30, from 32-31, if state Senator Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) prevails following the ongoing ballot recount in New York State’s 8th Senatorial District (SD), where John Brooks of Seaford, his Democratic challenger, holds an edge as of this writing.
The four other SDs representing Nassau County were decided on Election Day. State Senators Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) and Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) were re-elected in the 5th and 6th SDs, respectively, and then-Flower Hill Mayor Elaine Phillips won the open seat to succeed outgoing state Senator Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) in the 7th SD. On the South Shore, state Senator Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) was re-elected in the 9th SD.
The conventional wisdom held that the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District’s Oct. 20 announcement of corruption charges against Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano (R-Bethpage), his wife, Linda, and Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto (R-North Massapequa) would adversely impact the GOP’s 2016 candidates. The voters appeared to realize the federal allegations against those county and town elected officials could just have easily been brought on either Nov. 20 or Dec. 20. The Oct. 20 announcement was a political hand-grenade the Obama administration deliberately dropped into Nassau County, designed for maximum political damage to Republicans at the top of the ticket—Secretary Hillary Clinton carried Nassau by six percentage points—as well as those down the ballot. The federal government’s October surprise, no doubt, contributed to the apparent end of Senator Venditto’s legislative career, even though no one charged him with any wrongdoing.
Nassau’s taxpayers should welcome, however, the Republicans’ ability to weather the electoral and media storm—Newsday’s editorial board endorsed only one of the five Nassau Republicans seeking election to the state Senate; at least three of the five won in the weeks leading up to Election Day, Nov. 8. Had one other GOP state Senator lost statewide, it could have prompted a reunion of the Democrats and IDC members, effectively giving New York City-based Democrats control of the executive branch, the state Assembly and the state Senate.
The last time this unfortunate Albany trifecta occurred was 2009-2010. Long Islanders paid a price during those two years in the form of diminished state school aid and a new Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) payroll tax that, while since partially-rescinded, still extracts today $1 billion annually from the downstate economy’s taxpayers.
Mike Barry, vice president of media relations for an insurance industry trade group, has worked in government and journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the publisher or Anton Media Group.