NYS: Republicans, Outnumbered, Keep Power in Albany


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By any measure, the Republican Party in New York State should be on the ropes.

No Republican has been elected to a statewide office in a decade. Since the last presidential election, the number of registered Republicans in the state has dropped by 228,000; Democrats now outnumber Republicans roughly two to one.

Yet as they look toward the November elections, Republicans have reason for optimism.

They continue to have strong influence in Albany, thanks to a pragmatic alliance with the state’s Democratic governor, Andrew M. Cuomo. They are generally favored to retain their control of the Senate, thanks to gerrymandering designed to protect their incumbents, a strong fund-raising advantage, and a Democratic minority tainted with a reputation for corruption and division. And they hope that they can retain their strength in the state’s Congressional delegation — they now hold 8 of the 29 seats in a delegation that had only two Republicans at the time of the 2010 election.

“Republicans have a chance to hold just as many seats as they do now in the next Congress,” said David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “That would be a big victory.”

Republicans in the state still face considerable long-term challenges, particularly given the party’s enrollment disadvantage.

Though Republicans hold several important county executive posts, including Nassau, Westchester, Onondaga and Monroe, the party has struggled to find marquee candidates to run for many major elected offices, including governor, United States senator and mayor of New York City.

Polls show Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a Democrat, in a strong position to win re-election this year. The last Republican to win election to the United States Senate from New York, Alfonse M. D’Amato, predicted it was “going to be very difficult” to defeat her no matter which of three Republican candidates wins the primary election this month.

“In a statewide race, unless you have a badly flawed Democratic candidate and an excellent, well-financed Republican candidate, it is a virtual impossibility,” Mr. D’Amato said. “That doesn’t mean you give up, but it means the odds are already stacked against someone.”

But in regional and local races, the party appears in much better shape. New Yorkers elected six new Republicans to Congress in 2010, and the redistricting map put in place by a federal court — Albany lawmakers could not agree on one — is quite hospitable to the Republicans.

“We couldn’t have drawn a better map,” said Anthony J. Casale, a former assemblyman who is now chief of staff to the state Republican chairman, Edward F. Cox.

Races for 8 of the state’s 27 Congressional seats are projected to be competitive — four seats held by each party, according to the Cook Report. Democrats, who need a net gain of 25 seats nationally to take control of the House, had hoped many more Republican representatives would be at risk in New York; they were so disappointed by the court-drawn maps that the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, called Mr. Cuomo and the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, to urge them to negotiate a redistricting compromise that would have provided friendlier terrain for Democrats.

In State Senate elections, Republicans will also benefit from a new district map that adds a 63rd district in a Republican-friendly upstate area.

Arthur J. Kremer, a lobbyist and former Democratic assemblyman, said that with the favorable legislative map and the extra seat, the Republicans were in a good position to hold their majority.

“The Senate is the crown jewel for them, because at least it puts them in a position of power where they can influence state policy,” he said. “Having the State Senate keeps them viable as a party in New York.”

In an irony befitting Albany’s status as a political twilight zone, Republicans largely have Democrats to thank for their good standing this year.

Assembly Democrats, in return for being allowed to draw their own districts, agreed to accept the Republican-drawn redistricting map for the Senate. So did Mr. Cuomo, who settled for a promise of redistricting reform a decade from now.

The Senate Democrats have considerable challenges. They reported $228,000 on hand, plus $1.5 million in debt from the last elections, when campaign fund-raising was last disclosed in April. The Senate Republicans, by contrast, have more than $5 million in their coffers.

Complicating matters further, four Senate Democrats who broke away last year to form an independent caucus have shown little interest in reconciliation; their leader, Senator Jeffrey D. Klein of the Bronx, recently likened the Senate Democrats to a “circular firing squad.”

Mr. Cuomo, who has successfully persuaded the divided Legislature to embrace much of his agenda, has said nothing to indicate he would like to see Democrats retake the Senate. He has raised money for the Assembly Democrats, and is the major figure in a fund-raiser next month for the State Democratic Party, but he has not solicited donations for the Senate Democrats.

And at a recent meeting of the State Democratic Committee, the governor vowed to “elect Democrats in every office all across this state” but then declined to say whether that included state senators.

Some argue that Mr. Cuomo benefits from a Senate in Republican hands. John Jay LaValle, the Republican chairman in Suffolk County, said the Republican-controlled Senate gave Mr. Cuomo an ally in counteracting Mr. Silver, who for a generation has been the state’s most powerful Democrat in the Legislature. He said that Mr. Cuomo and the Senate Republicans were “forcing Sheldon Silver to do things that he traditionally wouldn’t do and traditionally hasn’t done.”



  1. The compromise by which each house of the legislature is allowed to gerrymander for the benefit of its own members goes back a long time (1970?).

    One should remember that if upstate were a separate state, it would be closely divided between parties. If New York City went bi-partisan (think of the implication of Turner and Storobin), then the entire state would be routinely in play. If frum Jews get fed up with the Democrats having made abortion and gay-rights as their litmus test, even Brooklyn will have contested elections.

    As it is, the Republicans have won state-wide office several times during the past 20 years (Pataki, D’Amato) and the Democrats haven’t been able to elect a mayor in New York City since the Crown Heights pogrom 20 years ago. To win in New York, a Republican needs to do reasonably well downstate, which some have (note where people like Dewey, Rockefeller, Javits, D’Amato, etc., were from).