New York Republicans Oust Democrats as Majority in State Senate

New York Republicans regained control of the state Senate after Jack Martins was declared the winner of a disputed race in Nassau County today by State Supreme Court Justice Ira Warshawsky, the Associated Press reported.

The ruling gives Republicans at least 32 members in the the 62-seat chamber, with one contest still undecided. Before 2008, when Democrats won a 32-30 Senate majority, the Senate had been controlled by Republicans since 1966. Democrats retained a majority in the 150-seat Assembly in the Nov. 2 elections.

The Republican’s victory over Democratic Senator Craig Johnson strengthens the party’s position in talks to close next year’s $9 billion budget deficit and in the drawing of new boundaries for lawmakers’ districts.

“The arrogance of one-party rule” in the Legislature hurt voters during the past two years, Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre has said. Democrats used their majority to push through spending and tax increases with the minimum number of required votes, and no Republican support.

Senate Republicans elected Skelos as their leader Nov. 29. Skelos said then he expects to be elected president of the Senate when lawmakers return to Albany in January. As president, he would control the Senate’s schedule.

Democrats’ bare majority left them vulnerable to demands of their own members that helped delay this year’s budget agreement until four months after the start of the fiscal year. In 2009, when the Senate was deadlocked at 31-31 after a Democratic senator temporarily defected to Republicans, $2.9 billion of revenue bills were stalled for a month.

Pledge for Independence

Before the election, all Senate Republicans and 21 of 32 Democrats signed a pledge to create an independent commission that would draw lawmakers district lines without favor to any party or candidate, according to NY Uprising, a group promoting the idea.

“It will be very interesting to see if they honor their words after the elections,” said Dick Dadey, director of Citizens Union, a New York City non-partisan watchdog group. The commission is needed to break the practice of “legislators choosing their voters instead of voters choosing legislators,” by drawing district lines to protect incumbents, he said.

In the past, when the Republicans controlled the Senate and Democrats had the Assembly, “each said to the other, you redistrict yourself,” said Ed Koch, the former New York City mayor and founder of NY Uprising.

Republicans retained control of the Senate after the 2000 Census even though Board of Elections figures showed they were outnumbered by 5.24 million to 3.17 million among registered voters that year. Since then Democrats’ advantage among registered voters has increased to 5.79 million to 2.91 million.

Republican senators won a majority of the chamber’s seats even as the candidate at the top of their ticket, Carl Paladino, lost to Democrat Andrew Cuomo in the race for governor. Democrats also won races for comptroller, attorney general and both U.S. senate seats last month.

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