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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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NY Senate’s Stakes

The way New York State is governed over the next 10 years is on Tuesday, Nov. 2’s ballot but something so consequential will have little to do with the outcome of the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections.

The future composition of the 62-member state Senate is to be decided in seven-plus weeks, and the fate of the state Legislature’s upper chamber will largely determine whether New York City-based Democrats control Albany between 2011 and 2020, just as they have in 2009 and 2010.

How can this be, you ask. The 2010 state legislative election cycle determines who will draw the congressional, state senate, and state assembly boundary lines in New York for the next decade, based on the results of the 2010 U.S. Census. In other words, if the Democrats control all of the levers of power in Albany in 2011, they will recast districts not only favorable to themselves but aimed at ousting even more Republicans from state and federal elective office beginning in 2012.

Moreover, depending upon how New York’s U.S. Census population numbers fare as compared to the rest of the nation, the state may lose another congressional seat. More than a decade ago, New York had 31 Members in the 435-seat U.S. House of Representatives. That number now stands at 29 Members because of U.S. population growth elsewhere as compared to New York. If New York’s U.S. House delegation were reduced to 28 Members from 29, a Democrat-controlled Albany will almost certainly move to eliminate a Republican-held congressional seat, even if the Republicans regain the majority in the U.S. House this year.

Let me get back to the New York state Senate, where Democrats today hold a 32-30 edge, a majority the Democrats secured in 2008 after spending decades in the state Senate’s minority. In what appears to be a GOP-trending year, you might think regaining the state Senate‘s majority is an easy assignment. Not really. For starters, the 30 Republican-held state Senate seats must stay in the GOP column. The Republicans then need to knock out two incumbent Democratic state Senators because a 31-31 tie is not going to carry the day. Should Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy, a Democrat, be elected lieutenant governor in the fall, Duffy would cast tie-breaking votes in the state Senate next year.

The fight to bring two-party government back to Albany will be fought upstate and on Long Island. Both state Senator Darrel Aubertine (D-Cape Vincent) and state Senator William Stachowski (D-Buffalo) were re-elected with 53 percent of the vote in 2008, a year when the Obama-Biden ticket was winning 62 percent of the statewide vote in New York. They are facing serious GOP challenges.

Closer to home, Republicans are avidly backing Mineola Mayor Jack Martins’ bid to unseat state Senator Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) and Lee Zeldin’s campaign against state Senator Brian Foley (D-Blue Point). Senator Johnson won with 56 percent of the vote two years ago, and Senator Foley (59 percent) had an even wider margin of victory. Still, in politics as on Wall Street, past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net