Democrats Dominate

In New York, as in much of the nation, November 4, 2008 was a very good night for the Democrat Party.

For the first time since 1965 Democrats are the majority party in the State Senate. With decisive victories against two long serving incumbents, Caesar Trunzo of Long Island and Serphin Maltese of Queens, Democrats gained a 32-30 majority. Congratulations to Brian Foley and Joseph Addabbo in their respective wins.

Republican challengers were unable to unseat their top two targets, upstate Democrats Bill Stachowski of Buffalo and Darryl Aubertine of Watertown. Republicans also failed to put a dent in Westchester Democrat Suzi Oppenheimer despite the presence of a talented and aggressive challenger campaign.

The Democrat majority may grow by one additional seat as election officials count and re-count the returns in the Queens race pitting Democrat challenger James Gennaro against longtime Republican incumbent Frank Padavan. At this writing Padavan maintained an 800 vote lead.

Many observers, myself included, predict that there will soon be a spate of Republican retirements in the State Senate as many aging and long-serving Republican Senators opt for an exit rather than minority-party status – which in Albany is more accurately described as second-class citizen status. Democrats would seem well positioned to make additional gains in open-seat elections should this come to pass.

With a governing majority the Democrats are poised to dominate all levels of state politics for the foreseeable future as their victories will enable them to administer the 2010 reapportionment with virtually no input from the Republicans – assuming they can use the enormous advantages of incumbency and the dramatically improved fundraising prospects of the majority to maintain control in the 2010 election.

The one glitch in the Democrat takeover of the Senate is the creation of a four member “Independent Caucus” of Democrats (Pedro Espada Jr. and Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx, Carl Kruger of Brooklyn and Hiram Monserrate of Queens) who may cast their dice with the Republican minority. However, this possibility seems unlikely.

The Democrats, who already enjoy a more than 2-1 edge in the State Assembly, also picked up three Congressional seats held by Republicans. Along the Southern Tier, challenger Eric Massa beat incumbent John “Randy” Kuhl. On Staten Island, Michael McMahon gained the open seat of Vito Fossella and in central New York, Dan Maffai became the replacement of Jim Walsh.

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