Surveying New York's political landscape

CYRIL JOSH BARKER and STEPHON JOHNSON | 1/17/2013, 1:14 p.m.

With Rice being Cuomo's favorite, it's understandable that many of New York's citizens of color remain skeptical of her, with her sketchy voting record, opposition to reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws, and zeal to prosecute.


Because of the fear of less diversity in Albany, it's important that the Democrats maintain power in the State Senate. All 62 State Senate seats are up for grabs, with the Republicans hoping to regain the majority. If a Republican is elected governor, the party needs to gain only one seat in the Senate. If a Democrat is elected governor, the Republicans would need two seats for a majority--assuming that the lieutenant governor would break the tie during votes.

Some key races in the Senate include Kemp Hannon, a Republican, battling Democrat Dave Mejias for the District 6 seat, which spreads from Garden City to Farmingdale. Hannon has held this seat since 1989 but dodged a bullet in 2008 when he edged out newcomer Kristen M. McElroy by 4 percentage points (52 percent to 48 percent on Election Day 2008).

Charlie Ramos, a former liaison to former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, is challenging Ruben Diaz Sr. for the 32nd District State Senate seat in the Bronx. Diaz has been a difficult partner for his Democratic colleagues. At times, he has sided with sometimes renegade State Sen. Pedro Espada, and he has come out publicly against gay marriage, catching the ire of gay rights' groups. Ramos was recently endorsed by the Empire State Pride Agenda, a local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) organization.

Juan Gustavo Rivera, a political aide who worked for senatorial and presidential campaigns for Kirsten Gillibrand and Barack Obama respectively, will challenge the controversial Espada for his Senate seat in the 33rd District. The state Democratic Party started to move on potentially ousting Espada from the ranks earlier this month. Espada is under investigation for allegedly using public money for personal-political business when he channeled finances to the Soundview Healthcare Network, a non-profit organization in Espada's district that he owns. Espada believes that the Democratic Party's actions are being steered by Cuomo as he asserts his power early.

Malcolm Smith mentioned a State Senate race in Long Island between Democrat Brian Foley and Republican Lee Zeldin. It's one of the seats the Republicans need to regain if they are going to have any realistic hope of regaining a majority in the State Senate.


With a Democratic majority sure to remain solid in the Assembly, all 150 seats are up for grabs. There are 64 assembly seats in New York City with 17 Black assembly members in the city. Gerrymandering gives little room for competitive races.

Notably, several candidates who previously ran for City Council in 2009 are again attempting to break into public office by running in their assembly district. For example, Carlton Berkley, who ran for City Council in Harlem last year, is seeking the District 68 seat, while former City Council candidate Clyde Vanel is running for the 33rd District seat in Southeast Queens. Vanel's looking to topple Barbara Clark, who currently holds this seat.

Sheldon Silver will most likely remain majority leader. In his own race, he has sued Republican Joan Lipp from being on the ballot.

Notable races to watch include District 68 in Harlem, which is currently being occupied by Adam Clayton Powell IV, who is running for Congress. Nine candidates have thrown their hat into the race, including Powell's chief of staff, Evette Zayas.

In District 79 in the Bronx, incumbent Michael Benjamin is vacating his seat to run for Congress. Wilbert Tee Lawton and Gwendolyn Primus are running for the seat.

Five candidates have declared their run for the District 55 seat in Brooklyn, which political royalty William Boyland currently occupies.