The much-debated blue wave on Election Night struck in Albany, obliterating state Senate Republicans and handing Democrats a working majority — and a large one — for the first time since 2010.
Democrats are expected to have a commanding 40-23 advantage this coming January should Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) decide to end his association with the Republican caucus. With Gov. Cuomo and Assembly Democrats coasting to victory on Tuesday, it also gives Democrats unchallenged control over the state’s legislative and political agenda, with Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) expected to be named majority leader.
She will join Cuomo and Assembly speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) as one of the “three people in a room” who will set priorities on everything from legislative agenda to the budget and taxes.
“The voters of New York State have spoken and they have elected a clear Democratic majority to the State Senate,” Cousins said in a statement issued by her office Tuesday night. “While the results of some elections are still being determined, at least 32 Senate Democratic Conference members have already won election tonight. I am confident our majority will grow even larger after all results are counted, and we will finally give New Yorkers the progressive leadership they have been demanding.”
Indeed, Democratic priorities are expected to include expanding protection for abortion services, criminal justice reform, strengthening gun laws, expanding rent control protections and implementing some sort of single-payer health insurance plan.
For years state Democrats have blamed the Senate GOP for blocking these and other initiatives. Now, however, Democrats appear to be out of Republican bogeymen — and excuses — if they don’t deliver.
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said the margin of victory did take him somewhat by surprise even with talk of a blue wave.
“My first reaction was ‘Wow!’” he said.
Addabbo acknowledged that voters will want to see results.
“Some we won’t be able to accomplish immediately in January — they might take until July,” he said. He also acknowledged that everything must be paid for within the state’s $168 billion budget.
“There’s very little wiggle room,” he said. Addabbo said the Senate has done things like check with the state Attorney General’s Office on the status of incoming legal settlements, which he said do help pay the bills.
“But those are one-shot things,” he said.
Democrats last time put through legislation that harmed their senators from upstate and the suburbs, and the party was made to pay at the polls two years later.
Addabbo said, however, that the new margin should allow them to get their agenda items through even with some opposition from fellow Democrats. That is where he said Stewart-Cousins will come to the fore.
“She’s a hard worker and has a very good grasp on the diversity of the state,” he said.
That could come handy with things like a “millionaire’s tax,” commuter taxes to help fund mass transit and changes to or elimination of real estate property tax caps — unpopular in the suburbs — possibly lurking just beneath the surface.
Current Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk) was quoted in the New York Post as saying Republicans aren’t going anywhere.
“While tonight’s results are disappointing, the Senate Republican Conference will continue to be a strong and important voice in Albany — standing up for hard-working taxpayers, advancing policies that help businesses create new jobs and new opportunities, and working every day to keep our families secure and safe,” he said.
“When we need to push back, we will push back. And where we can find common ground, we will always seek it. This election is over, but our mission is not. Senate Republicans will never stop advocating for the principles we believe in or the agenda that New Yorkers and their families deserve.”
In recent years, Democrats have had a numerical majority, but have been thwarted by the former Independent Democratic Conference, which was formed in 2011 and eventually formed a leadership-sharing agreement with the GOP.
The eight remaining IDC members agreed to disband earlier this year. Most of them, including Sens. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), lost in primaries back in September.