Thu November 8, 2012
Democratic control of Senate appears inevitable
A Democratic majority in the State Senate will likely shake up the power structure in Albany, but to some observers the development is not a matter of "if," but a matter of "when."
Political scientist James Coleman Battista at the University at Buffalo says he's waiting for the many counts and re-counts in the disputed Senate elections across the state before declaring Democratic control of the chamber.
But in a state where Republicans are outnumbered by nearly two-to-one, Battista thinks the GOP will soon be marginalized in Albany.
"This is not something that should be terribly surprising in the grand scheme of things where the New York Senate has retained Republican control by very thin margins and only by pretty Draconic gerrymandering and they're probably near the limit of what you can accomplish"
"The Republicans have to set up districts that are mostly, relatively weak Republican, which means if things don't go right, if anything unexpected happens, it's possible a Democrat could win."
A Democratic majority in the Senate would only add to the party's influence in Albany with a Democratic Governor in Andrew Cuomo. The Assembly has been dominated by Democrats for decades.
Republican Dean Skelos currently sits as Senate Majority Leader. He has enabled the governor to complete many of his legislative priorities. Battista is not sure if that would be the case if a Democrat emerged as the new Senate Majority Leader.
"If you compare Governor Cuomo's experiences with Governor Paterson's under nominal Democratic control, it wouldn't be crazy to think that Governor Cuomo, or any other governor, might prefer to have relatively smooth dealings with Skelos over trying to deal with the chaos that resulted under nominal Democratic control."
Despite the possible Democratic leadership takeover in the chamber, Senate representation for Western New York continues to be dominated by the GOP.
Geroge Maziarz, Mark Grisanti, Catharine Young, Patrick Gallivan and Mike Ranzenhofer are Republican while Tim Kennedy continues to be the region's lone Democratic Senator.
Despite that disparity,Professor Battista doesn't expect anything new for how the area is represented in Albany.
"Are we seeing a growing divide in New York? Well, it would be hard to imagine that an Upstate-Downstate divide could become larger than it historically has been. This is something that's always been there," said Battista.
"There are differences in how you want to govern an extremely large city with how you want to govern the rural areas that are nearby it."