Senator Felder Stays With The GOP, Denying Democrats Ruling Majority

Apr 25, 2018

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Democrats have won two special elections for the New York state Senate, but Republicans will remain in charge of the chamber. In Westchester County, Democrat Shelley Mayer beat Republican Julie Killian. In the Bronx, Democrat Luis Sepulveda easily dispatched Republican Patrick Delices. Democrats now have a one-seat majority; but even before the results of two special elections Tuesday in the State Senate were decided, the lone Democratic Senator who caucuses with the Republicans says he’s sticking with the GOP. That means Democrats will likely not control the Senate any time this year.

Senator Simcha Felder said in a statement that with only 25 days remaining in this year’s legislative session he wants to do what’s best for his constituents.

“Political gamesmanship must not be allowed to jeopardize the leadership, committee structure and staff of the New York State Senate and push this institution into turmoil,” Felder said.  Felder added he fears if some of the races are close it might lead to weeks of court battles, further paralyzing the Senate.

Democrats hoped that if Felder decided to go back to their party that might mean that a number of progressive measures could be approved in New York this session, including, early voting , the child victims act to allow survivors of childhood sexual abuse their day in court, and campaign finance reform. 

But, even if Felder had rejoined the Democrats, the conservative leaning Democrat from Brooklyn was not on board with many of the progressive items, and so they might have ultimately failed to pass anyway.

GOP Senators helped Felder get a key item he wanted in the recently approved state budget, an easing of rules on curriculum for Yeshiva religious schools.  Now, apparently Senator Felder is returning the favor.

A spokesman for the Senate Republicans, Scott Reif, says the GOP Senators are “thrilled” and called him “an important and trusted member of our conference.”   

The Senate Democrats also issued a statement, saying a “blue wave” is sweeping the country, and they fully expect to pick up enough Democratic seats in the November elections to take back the Senate. Senate Democratic Communications Director Mike Murphy said “the voters are sick and tired of Democrats that empower Trump Republicans.”

Even though Felder says his decision to remain with the Republicans is final, Governor Cuomo is not ready to give up. In a statement, the governor’s spokeswoman Dani Lever says Cuomo still wants Democrats to unify, saying “this conversation will continue in the morning.”