Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Slip Sliding Away

GOP Loses Grip On NYS Senate

They're down to one in Albany.

After a special election in a heavily Republican upstate Senate District, the Democrat emerged victorious, and the GOP majority had been cut to a single vote. This in a district that hasn't elected a Democrat in more than a century.

Not exactly the news Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno was hoping for, as he attempts to stave off the feds with one hand, and the old men in the flannel leisure suits with the other.

Come November, with every seat in the Legislature up for grabs, Dems will look to throw the GOP out of the box -- or at least out of power in the Senate chambers, where Republicans have maintained control since the 60s.

The GOP has been losing ground in the State Senate over the last few election cycles, and with a record-breaking Democratic turnout expected at the polls this presidential election year, the balance may just tip in favor of the Dems, who already have a lock on the Assembly.

Of course, giddiness of Democrats aside, all of this may not bode well for Long Islanders, who, if they have benefited at all from Albany's graces, owe much to the predeominantly Republican Long Island Senate delegation, led by the venerable Dean Skelos, the Senate's Deputy Majority Leader.

Should the Democrats wrestle the reigns from the Republicans, with Long Island's GOP hanging on to the rafters, Long Island may well become that proverbial boat without a paddle -- Ignored by all, championed by none.

Its a quandry for all of us on Long Island, especially those who crave for a change from the stagnant status quo.

For the moment, Democrats revel in their North Country victory. What tomorrow will bring to our Long Island remains anybody's guess.
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From Newsday:

Dems' win in State Senate race shrinks GOP edge

ALBANY - Republicans' longtime control of the Senate weakened last night as their majority shrank to a single seat with the upset victory of Democrat Darrel Aubertine in a special election in northern New York.

With all precincts reporting, Aubertine had 52 percent, compared with 48 percent for Republican Will Barclay.

The 62-member Senate is the GOP's sole remaining Capitol power base, with Democrats holding the Assembly and governor's office. The Senate traditionally has fought the hardest for Long Island.

Aubertine and Barclay, both assemblymen, were vying to represent the 48th District, which encompasses Oswego, Jefferson and half of St. Lawrence counties in the state's northwest corner.

But the contest was far from a local affair, with Democrats hoping to capture the Senate for the first time since 1965.

"This is potentially significant because there's a sense now that the Senate could flip in terms of which party holds the majority," government professor Calvin F. Exoo of St. Lawrence University said, adding the result "could be a bellwether for the fall" when all lawmakers face re-election.

The monthlong race cost an estimated $3 million, most coming from the state parties. Hundreds of political activists, including several busloads from Long Island, spent weeks campaigning upstate.

The 48th has always elected a Republican. The seat fell vacant with last month's retirement of Sen. James Wright (R- Watertown) after 15 years. Campaigning intensified last week when a poll showed a dead heat, surprising given Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 31,000.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, has been clear about his desire to wipe out Senate Republicans, led by his nemesis Joseph Bruno of Brunswick. Last night's loss was sure to intensify speculation about Bruno's ouster, or a possible GOP defection, which would give Democrats the upper hand.

With a 32-30 breakdown presently, it would take only one senator to turn to give Lt. Gov. David Paterson, a Democrat, the casting vote.

Spitzer said last night, "Darrel will be a powerful advocate for the North Country and I look forward to working together on the people's business."

Spitzer cut Bruno's majority a year ago when he tapped then-Sen. Michael Balboni (R-Mineola) for homeland security secretary. A special election to fill the seat in Nassau's 7th District was won by Democrat Craig Johnson of Port Washington.

In the battle for the 48th, issues were largely cast aside in favor of class warfare as Barclay, 39, was painted as a rich lawyer from a powerful family and Aubertine, 54, a dairy farmer and former county legislator, beholden to downstate interests.

Reacting last night, Bruno said: "We remain the majority party in the State Senate. ... The November election is little more than eight months away and we intend to redouble our efforts to regain seats."

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

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