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New York Democrats Heartened By Win

Democratic N.Y. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Mike Groll
enate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., in 2016.

Democrats in New York are heartened by what they call a “blue wave” in this week’s election results in the state and the nation.

This year is considered an “off” election year with no presidential or statewide contests like a governor’s race.

But nevertheless, Democrats in New York hungry for signs of encouragement after the 2016 election of President Trump are very happy over Democratic wins in the county executive races in two suburban New York Counties, Nassau and Westchester.

Governor Andrew Cuomo seemed especially gleeful over the defeat of incumbent Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who lost to Democratic State Senator George Latimer.  

“He was trounced, trounced!” said Cuomo.

Astorino was Cuomo’s opponent in the 2014 governor’s race. After Tuesday’s election results, he said he would not try to run for governor in 2018. 

Democratic Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says after what she considers to be a politically disastrous year since Trump was elected president, she’s encouraged that so many New Yorkers, and Americans, are realizing that their vote can count.

“For a long time people had become less and less civically engaged, and at some point people just started to believe that none of it mattered,” said Stewart-Cousins, who said now that has changed and that voters realize they have “an incredibly crucial role to play.”

Stewart-Cousins is hoping that the Democratic wins in the New York City suburbs can translate into more victories for her party’s Senate candidates in 2018, and result in Democrats taking back control of the Senate. The chamber is currently ruled by Republicans, aided by breakaway Democrats.

The GOP safely holds many upstate districts, and Democrats are entrenched in New York City Senate posts. But the suburbs have some swing seats, and the Democrats hope to chip away in three key districts on Long Island, and one in Westchester.     

The Senator says Democrats plan to put up “strong candidates” across the board to challenge incumbents. 

“I’m sure that the Senate will become Democratic,” she said. “Finally.”

Democrats won the Senate in Washington State Tuesday, and Democrat Phil Murphy will succeed Republican Chris Christie as governor of New Jersey. Christie was not seeking re-election.  

For Democrats to take control of the Senate, two feuding factions would need to reunite. Eight Democrats are members of the Independent Democratic Conference, and do not caucus with the rest of the Democrats. One Democratic Senator, Simcha Felder, is actually part of the Republican conference and helps the GOP maintain its 32-seat majority, the bare minimum number of seats needed to rule the Senate.  

Governor Cuomo, who in the past has worked cooperatively with the Republicans and the Independent Democrats in the Senate, has increasingly called for the Democratic Senate factions to unify. He repeated that call one day after the elections, telling them “your personal ego is irrelevant.”

A spokesman for Senator Stewart-Cousins, Gary Ginsberg, says the Senator agrees that the democrats should unite, and that it should be “about policy, not perks” or empowering the Senate Republicans.

And a spokeswoman for the Independent Democratic Conference, says the Senators in the conference also plan to “work to elect Democrats” in 2018.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.