Amid the statewide tendency to return incumbents to the New York Legislature, several hotly contested races this year for the 63-member state Senate will determine whether Republicans or Democrats will hold majority sway in the chamber.
At stake is control of what legislation reaches the Senate floor for the next two years, such as codifying abortion rights, raising the minimum wage again and providing tuition assistance to students who are in the U.S. illegally. Those are among the Democrats’ priorities.
The Republicans as a group have pushed instead for lower spending and taxes and fewer state mandates.
This year, the Senate was run by a majority coalition of 29 Republicans and the five-member Independent Democratic Conference, whose leader had lately promised to regroup with the mainstream Democrats. That suggests a nearly evenly divided Senate, where many incumbents have little or no opposition this year.
That also sets the stage Tuesday for a handful of closely contested races determining the broader outcome of 32 Senate votes and majority control.
They include challenges to Republican Sen. Jack Martins on Long Island and to Sen. Mark Grisanti in Buffalo, who won as a Republican last time and now runs as an independent against three opponents. Losses to Democrats could tilt the balance.
Meanwhile, Democratic Sens. Cecilia Tkaczyk in the greater Albany area, Terry Gipson in the Hudson Valley and Ted O’Brien in Rochester face Republicans who could ensure the GOP stays on top.
Another key contested race, for the seat vacated by Republican Greg Ball in the Hudson Valley, pits Republican Terrence Murphy against Democrat Justin Wagner.
In the Assembly, where Democrats have nearly two-thirds of the seats, they are expected to easily keep their majority.
New York’s legislators are paid $79,500 a year for two-year terms, with extra pay for committee chairmanships, and travel and meal expenses. This year the Legislature was often in session two or three days a week from January through June.