As the midterm elections come close, questions linger about whether or not the Democrats in the New York state Senate will hang on and keep control.
After a having power for such a short time, Democrats are looking to maintain their majority. While all 62 seats are up for grabs, Republicans, with no members of color in their caucus, are seeking to regain a majority again after losing it in 2008 and getting it back briefly due to last year’s legislative coup.
Before their 2008 electoral loss, the Republicans had held the state Senate for more than 40 years.
With Paterson leaving the governorship at the end of year and Sheldon Silver having a iron grip on the Assembly, real minority participation and power lies in the state Senate, where Black State Sens. Malcolm Smith and John Sampson preside.
But it is no secret that the balance of power remains very close. To keep power, Democrats need Andrew Cuomo to hold the governorship and not lose more than two state Senate seats, but if Tea Party darling Carl Paladino manages an upset, the Republicans would only need to pick up one seat in order to recapture the body.
Several races across the state are being watched closely, including the race in the 15th District in Queens between incumbent Democrat Joseph Addabbo and Republican Anthony Como. Polls show both candidates neck and neck.
A potential Republican pickup is in the race between incumbent Democrat Brian Foley and Republican Lee Zeldin in the 3rd District on Long Island. Previous votes for cuts in education and the MTA tax have put Foley under fire with some constituents.
But despite these moving parts, the two top state Senate leaders don’t seemed fazed and are confident that the state Senate will stay in the hands of the Democratic Party. State Senate President Malcolm Smith and Majority Leader John Sampson recently spoke to the AmNews to weigh in on why the Democrats will not only keep control of the chamber, but increase their majority.
“Proven results will maintain our majority,” said Sampson. “And we will also increase our majority. I am willing to work with anybody who wants better for the people of the state of New York.”
The state senator, who represents Brooklyn, added that Republicans are not willing to work with others and that the GOP has a long history of unequal distribution of financial resources, especially concerning communities of color. Sampson said that he can’t recall a time when Republicans had power when there wasn’t a blatant, unfair distribution of funds leaving Democratic and predominately Black and Hispanic districts out in the cold.
“When they were in control, they received millions of dollars for their districts, and the Democrats got nothing,” he said. “[Republicans] are not looking to benefit all New Yorkers, just their side of New York.”
Sampson also pointed out that on the Republicans’ watch, New York City lost over 150,000 jobs and advocated for a prison-industrial complex upstate. In several GOP campaigns, candidates are collectively asking for reform of Albany, but the GOP has not been clear about what a reforming of Albany under GOP leadership would mean. In addition, Sampson pointed out that the GOP had been in power for more than 40 years and are only calling for reform now because they have been the minority party for most of the last two years.
“The height of hypocrisy was in the coup. Republicans were not in power for six months and they didn’t like the way they had become irrelevant. All they care about is politics, power, patronage and profit, but they forgot the last P: the people,” Sampson said.
Like his colleague, Smith believes that in November, Democrats will have no problem keeping control in the state Senate and that voters will remember how things were when Republicans had control.
He said, “There is no doubt in my mind that we will hold onto the majority. We are working with Foley on Long Island to hold onto that seat and we are also working with campaigns north of Westchester that will expand our majority.”
Smith added that voters already know before heading to the polls how things will be if the Republican Party has control. He points out the state’s deficit and job losses in recent years.
“When you look at how the deficit was run up in the Pataki era, the result was jobs leaving the state, especially in manufacturing,” Smith said. “Programs like the Empire Zone created close to zero jobs and uncontrolled spending.”
Reiterating his confidence that the Democratic Party will grow in the state Senate after next month’s elections, Smith said that he is also eager to get back to work serving the people.
“It is our hope that the Republican Party will understand that politics is for campaigning, and when we finish the election, we have to get back to governing in a state where people can raise their families,” he said.