Immediately after Donald Trump was elected president, progressives across New York state turned their desperate eyes towards Albany, eager to learn how their state government would help defend them against the Trump administration. But Republicans were in control of the State Senate, thanks to a deal with a runaway group of Democrats, and one Brooklyn senator, Simcha Felder, who belonged to both parties and openly sided with whoever could give his district the most money. This kicked off a two year journey by progressives to not only annihilate the breakaway group of Democrats known as the IDC, but also to finally rid the state of any semblance of Republican power once and for all.
On Tuesday night, the Democrats' quest ended with a series of victories that will not only hand power to Democrats in both the state Assembly and Senate, but may be large enough to ensure that New York will tackle a series of long-delayed reforms that have stymied the progressive movement in the state for decades.
There will be at least eight new Democratic State Senators, meaning that come January, Democrats will control the Senate with 39 seats. Republicans will have 23 seats, and Felder will have to make up his mind. Andrea Stewart-Cousins is officially the next Senate Majority Leader. The Yonkers senator becomes the first woman to hold the position.
Long Island went blue at the state level. Monica Martinez, a 40-year-old Suffolk county legislator who used to be a teacher and assistant principal, won her race for a seat vacated by two-term Republican senator Thomas Croci.
On the Nassau County/Suffolk County border, James F. Gaughran shellacked 23-year incumbent Republican Carl L. Marcellino, in a rematch of their closely contested 2016 race.
Kevin Thomas defeated 72-year-old Kemp Hannon, a stalwart of the Republican-led Senate who had been in office since 1989.
And Anna Kaplan, the most conservative of the bunch, beat Senator Elaine Philips, who had only served one term in office.
In a sign of how drastic a shift this represents, both Gaughran and Thomas have come out in support of the New York Health Act, a law that has repeatedly passed the state assembly which would bring universal health care to New York State.
In Bay Ridge and South Brooklyn, Andrew Gounardes has claimed a narrow 655-vote victory over Republican Senator Marty Golden, who has held his seat for 16 years. Was it the Ben Stiller bump? In a speech last night, Golden refused to concede, claiming that there are more than 3,000 paper ballots yet to be counted, and that reviewing the results would take a least a week.
— Jeanmarie Evelly (@JeanmarieEvelly) November 7, 2018
Upstate, Democrats picked up a bunch of races they weren’t exactly counting on to win. Winners included 31-year-old Assemblyman James Skoufis, who sailed to victory in Orange and Ulster Counties, promising to rein in the expansion of Kiryas Joel, the controversial ultra-Orthodox community, while Hudson Valley Democrat Pete Harckham defeated incumbent Terrence Murphy.
Jen Metzger, a Rosendale town council member, won a race for a seat vacated by 20-year incumbent John Bonacic by running a campaign that focused on universal healthcare. Seeing a pattern? Seems like this universal health care thing might just be a winning issue!
On the agenda for the newly Democratic government? Passing the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify Roe V. Wade in New York State (seems timely), finding a way to fund the MTA’s much-needed resuscitation (also timely, or not so timely depending on how many F trains you’ve been trapped inside of), reforming the state’s broken criminal justice system and possibly ending the use of cash bail, implementing long-overdue voting reforms, and oh yeah, that universal healthcare thing. It’ll be a long list of priorities for a relatively fresh-faced bunch of politicians, but it appears that the senior senate Democrats, who have long languished in the minority, are ready to just celebrate victory for once. The acrimony will come later, not to mention any wrenches thrown by the executive branch.
— Todd Kaminsky (@toddkaminsky) November 7, 2018
What does this mean for Simcha Felder? Is he welcomed back into the Democratic fold after handing power to the Republicans for so long, or is he sent off to political Siberia (which, most of the time, looks just like Albany!)