Why is this man smiling? Because last night he took one more step towards the (eventual) Democratic takeover of the State Senate.
With Craig Johnson’s defeat of Maureen O’Connell in yesterday’s special election in Nassau, Democrats now just need to pick up two more seats to take control of the legislative body and make State Senator Malcolm Smith (pictured) its majority leader.
Now, rumors are swirling throughout Albany that Smith is courting several Republicans to make up that two-seat difference and switch control of the State Senate sooner rather than wait for the next election cycle. Reports have centered around Rochester State Senator Joe Robach, a former Democrat, and Republican maverick John Bonacic of New Paltz as the two most likely defectors.
But could a new Democrat come from the City? How about Queens? One Democratic legislator I spoke with yesterday said he does not understand why Queens State Senator Serf Maltese doesn’t look to switch parties. Maltese just squeaked by his no-name Democrat opponent in November’s general election, and has become the top target of Albany Democrats for the next cycle. In the interest of self-preservation, Maltese could make the switch and save his own job for a few years, until he decided to retire or another local Democrat took him on.
But as that legislator noted, Maltese is very conservative and has been a leader of the Queens Republican Party for so long that any switch would reek of self-interest, as he would never ideologically fit in with the rest of the Democratic Party. But these switches aren’t made for principled reasons, and Maltese did just step down as chairman of the Queens Republican Party. Maybe there’s a "D" in Maltese’s future.