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Democrats Now One Seat From Supermajority In NYS Senate

New York state Capitol
Jim Levulis

Democrats have all but clinched a supermajority in the State Senate after declaring victory in another seat Friday, bringing the total number of seats controlled by the party in the chamber to at least 41 at the beginning of next year’s legislative session.

Democrats need 42 seats in the chamber to hold a supermajority, which would give them the rare power of overturning a veto from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s also a Democrat.

For the most part, Cuomo and Democrats in the state Legislature have been aligned on legislative priorities. But there are certain areas where it’s been difficult to find a consensus between the two branches of government.

That means Democrats would have more leverage in negotiations on controversial measures next year, when conversations are expected to center largely around the state’s budget deficit.

Michelle Hinchey, a Democrat, handed her party the latest victory Friday in the State Senate, flipping a district from Republican hands. She’ll replace retiring Sen. George Amedore, who decided not to run for reelection this year.

“Our world has changed immensely since we started our campaign, but that didn’t stop voters from coming out in droves to make their voices for change heard,” Hinchey said.

She’ll represent the 46th State Senate District, which stretches from the Mohawk Valley, through the Capital Region, and down into the Hudson Valley. It was drawn in the last redistricting process, some have said, to favor Republicans.

Her victory is the latest in a series of wins announced by Democrats this week after absentee ballots were tabulated in various counties. Earlier this week, Democrats announced a few victories in contentious raes downstate as well.

A few races remain uncalled, but at least one has the potential to hand Democrats the supermajority.

State Sen. Pete Harckham, a Democrat, is still waiting for absentee ballots to be counted in his race against Republican challenger Rob Astorino, a former Westchester County Executive. That counting could end in the next few days, with absentees favoring Harckham so far.

Another race in Central New York also has yet to be called. That seat, which has been open for nearly a year after the lawmaker left office for a judgeship, could bring Democrats to 43 seats if Harckham pulls out a win in the next few days.

Two other seats — one on Long Island and one in the Hudson Valley — also have yet to be formally called, but Republicans are confident in flipping those districts from Democrats when absentee ballots are counted.

As of now, Republicans have decidedly won 18 seats in the Senate, with the potential to bring that number up to 22, depending on where things land. They held significant leads over Democrats in in-person voting, but absentee ballots erased that advantage in several races.

That means Democrats will still hold a firm majority in the Senate next year, handing them two more years of total control over state government. The Assembly is also held by Democrats.

Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris, a Democrat from Queens, said in an interview on public television’s New York NOW that the top priority for lawmakers when they return to Albany will be the state’s finances. New York currently faces a $14 billion budget deficit.

“So much is colored now by the pandemic and coronavirus and our response to it,” Gianaris said. “So I do expect that 2021 will be largely consumed by budget questions.”

Lawmakers will return to Albany, either in-person or virtually, in January.

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