So it looks like Senate Democrats will get their supermajority after all.
In the immediate aftermath of the election, Democrats’ dreams of a veto-proof majority in the 63-member state Senate appeared to have been dashed.
In a jubilant morning-after message to supporters, state GOP chairman Nick Langworthy confidently proclaimed that Republicans had picked up seats in the state Senate, thus “blocking Democrats from a Senate supermajority and stopping them from a permanent foothold of power after redistricting.”
Sifting through the results, I was inclined to see things Langworthy’s way.
Though absentee ballots had yet to be counted, Democrats trailed in a number of races, sometimes by seemingly large margins.
I doubted, for instance, that Democrat Michelle Hinchey could overcome Republican Richard Amedure’s 8,171 election day lead, and said so, writing, “Count me among those who expected (Hinchey) to beat (Amedure) in the contest to succeed Republican George Amedore of Rotterdam in the 46th Senate District.”
I should have waited for all the absentee ballots to be counted before making a statement like that.
Late last week, Hinchey took the lead, powered by absentee ballots that overwhelmingly broke her way. On Monday, incumbent Sen. Pete Harckham appeared on the verge of overtaking Republican challenger Rob Astorino in the race for the 40th District, giving Democrats their supermajority.
If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: The state Republican Party has a lot of work to do to become a major force in New York politics again.
Over the past decade, the Democrats have strengthened an already-strong hand, gaining control of the state Senate and outpacing the GOP with new voter registrations.
If Republicans were hoping voters might tire of the steady drift toward one-party rule, that doesn’t appear to be happening.
The Democrats defended their downstate Senate seats, while also flipping at least four upstate seats from red to blue.
In addition to the seat previously held by Amedore, they picked up the 60th District in Buffalo, and two seats in the Rochester area. And there’s a chance they’ll pick up a seat in Syracuse, where the counting of absentee ballots was suspended when an elections board employee tested positive for coronavirus.
We know where this leaves the state Republican Party – in the same bleak position it was in before the election, at least as far as the Senate is concerned.
What I’m wondering, though, is where this increased Democratic control leaves upstate, which has typically relied on Senate Republicans to represent its interests, with a few notable exceptions.
With New York state government dominated by downstate Democrats, the concerns of upstate residents are often overshadowed, and issues of vital importance to those of us who live here rarely receive the attention they deserve.
Upstate population loss, lackluster economic growth, the struggles of local farmers – you don’t hear a lot about these things in the halls of the state Capitol.
Some would argue that one-party rule means that we’ll hear even less about them, and they might be right.
I, however, harbor some optimism that having more Democrats from upstate in the Senate will help bring these overlooked concerns to the fore.
Perhaps Hinchey and the others who flipped their seats from Republican to Democratic control will emerge as powerful advocates for upstate, helping educate their downstate colleagues about what’s really going on up here.
At least, that’s my hope.
The Democratic supermajority is here.
If there’s an upside, it’s that upstate New York will soon have more voices in this powerful caucus.
Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.