Democrats had much to be happy about on Nov. 4, when Sen. Barack Obama beat Sen. John McCain in a landslide and ratcheted up huge majorities in Congress. In New York, the celebration was twice as enjoyable for State Senate Democrats, who secured the majority for the first time in 40 years.
As presidential election results poured in at the New York Democrats’ party at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown, the room was aquiver with news that Queens Council Member Joseph Addabbo and Brian Foley, a Long Island town supervisor, bested two GOP incumbents. That put the Democrats over the 30-seat threshold necessary for a majority.
“The Obama surge is the surge of people voting for change, and that’s what we’re fighting for in the State Senate,” said State Sen. Eric Schneiderman.
As expected, Manhattan Democrats effortlessly won their re-election campaigns with yawning margins—no Democratic incumbent dipped below 73 percent of the vote—which looks like further proof the GOP is all but dead in the borough.
If there were a winner to be culled among the Republican candidates, that person would be Republican Party stalwart David Casavis. At 25.17 percent of the vote, Casavis, who ran against Assembly Member Jonathan Bing, received the highest percentage of votes among Republican candidates out of the borough’s 16 State Legislature races. Bing’s district, however, does have the highest GOP enrollment of any Manhattan Assembly district.
The new Democratic majority in the Senate was a personal victory for State Sen. Liz Krueger. A majority was, in part, the culmination of her efforts as head of her conference’s campaign committee in 2006.
“Since I first ran for office, my commitment has been to help the Senate go Democratic,” said Krueger, who succeeded Manhattan’s last Republican state senator, Roy Goodman. “We can move legislation that is in the best interest of the State of New York and the best interests of my district.”
With newfound power in the majority, Manhattan’s state senators are poised for new legislative roles as they are likely to be picked to chair committees and snag leadership roles.
Democratic control of the Senate and Assembly will likely mean more bills moving out of the legislature and onto the governor’s desk. With a Republican-controlled Senate, Democratic bills would often die in committee. For Assembly Democrats, bills would pass their chamber and flounder in the GOP-controlled Senate.
“There are so many progressive objectives we have fought for that have not been possible with GOP-control of the Senate,” said Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh.
Kavanagh said he hopes to advance issues like tenant protection, campaign finance reform and a marriage equality bill.
“That is as big a change you’ll see in politics in a generation,” he said.
Unlike the races in 2000 and 2004, this year’s election—the results, McCain’s concession and Obama’s victory speech—was wrapped up soon after midnight. For Borough President Scott Stringer, ending the party early was welcome.
“When the party lasts long, we Democrats don’t win,” Stringer said. “It should be short, sweet and to the point.”
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