Niagara Gazette

Local News

November 11, 2012

Analysis: Governor at center of uncertain Senate

Niagara Gazette — ALBANY — In the continuing fight for control of New York's powerful state Senate, the only clear winner is Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

If Democrats hold on to Tuesday's tentative win of 31 seats (they also lead in two races too close to call), Cuomo could get a Democratic majority that's hungry for the progressive goals that he set but were blocked by the Republican majority over the past two years Cuomo has been in office.

Absentee ballots begin to be opened in two weeks. Democrats hope for a 33-30 majority then. The new session begins Jan. 1.

Republicans, who now have a 33-29 majority, hope for a gain of at least two seats when all absentee ballots are counted. That would create a 31-31 split, but Republicans are angling for as many as five Democrats to work with them in a GOP-dominated majority.

Republicans hope to continue an alliance with four breakaway Democrats of the Independent Democratic Conference and Democratic Sen.-elect Simcha Felder of Brooklyn who may sit with the GOP. If Republicans prevail, Cuomo will see business as usual, and he values that the deals he makes with highly disciplined Republicans stick. That's a questionable prospect with more fractious Democrats.

Cuomo passed critical fiscal goals — tight budgets, a cap on property tax growth, a cheaper public pension — by uniting with Republicans over the first half of his term. Now he has a chance to get his progressive goals with a Democratic Senate majority, including raising the minimum wage and public financing of campaigns. He could also reach those goals if the independent Democrats align with the Republican coalition, where they would gain a far stronger voice and could push Cuomo's agenda.

The diverse successes would be a dream resume for someone who might run for president in 2016.

Cuomo must pivot to strengthen any presidential hopes, said Michael Kink of the progressive Strong Economy for All coalition and a former top adviser to Senate Democrats.

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