By Tom Precious
BOSTON – Control of the New York’s state Senate, a Republican stronghold for more than 50 years, was still unsettled hours after polls closed, though it appears Democrats are poised to pick up seats that could, on paper, throw the chamber into partisan chaos.
Democrats quickly claimed victory; Republicans, though, were conceding nothing after midnight.
Two current Republican seats – one in the Mid-Hudson Valley centered around Poughkeepsie and the other in the Rochester area – now see Democratic challengers leading in unofficial vote tallies. A new seat added by Republicans spreading from west of Amsterdam along the Mohawk River to Ulster County along the Hudson River – is still too close to call early this morning, though the Democratic challenger has a slight lead.
If preliminary votes showing his Democratic challenger ahead of Dutchess County Sen. Steve Saland hold through expected paper ballot counts in the days or weeks ahead, it would mean Sen. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo would be the only one of four Senate Republicans who last year voted to legalize gay marriage rights returning to Albany in January.
A couple of races in storm-battered downstate were still not reporting final vote counts as 1:30 am approached.
But, Albany being Albany, there is more to the story. If Democrats do make the gains they were proclaiming after midnight, there still is the question of how things play out with four renegade Senate Democrats who broke away from the main party conference two years ago to form their own caucus; the four have backed Republicans on a number of key votes over the past couple years. And one Democrat leading in a New York City Senate race has indicated, according to the New York Daily News, that he would caucus with Republicans if he won. The whole situation could lead to chaos, a power-sharing deal or status quo – depending on how the final votes come in.
Legal challenges can be expected from one or both sides, and paper ballot counting could take weeks to decide one or more races.
“We are confident that once all the votes are in, we will retain our majority,’’ said Scott Reif, a Senate GOP spokesman.
Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat who runs the Senate Democratic campaign committee, did not return calls or emails for comment.
Mike Murphy, a Senate Democratic spokesman, said the Tuesday was a "historic night'' for Democrats in the Senate. "The voters have made clear that they want a Democratic majority in control of the Senate. We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and working with Governor Cuomo to enact a progressive agenda for (the) state of New York,'' Murphy said.