State Senate Squeaker Surprise


As the election returns were coming in Tuesday night, some folks at the Sheraton were already talking about 2008—not whether Hillary will win New Hampshire, but whether New York Democrats will finally achieve their goal of winning control over the State Senate. Because it clearly wasn’t happening last night.

With the exception of Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who was narrowly ahead of incumbent Nick Spano in the most recent count of their State Senate seat race in Yonkers, the candidates in which Democrats placed much hope this year failed in knocking off GOP senators. Brian Keeler lost to Stephen Saland, John Flanagan beat Brooke Ellison, and Vincent Leibell beat back Michael Kaplowitz.

Meanwhile, New York City’s four GOP state senator seats remained in the Republican column.

It struck some Democrats as odd that in such a Democratic year, with top Dems like Eliot Spitzer cruising to victory with money to spare (In their final pre-primary reports, Spitzer/Paterson had about $8 million in the bank, Alan Hevesi $4 million), that more wasn’t done to unseat the Republicans in the city. Sen. Marty Golden didn’t even draw a challenger. Matthew Titone had half a shot at taking the former John Marchi seat. Nora Marino was considered a credible challenger to Frank Padavan, but entered the race a little late. And no one gave Albert Baldeo, a lawyer and community activist who lost a city council bid in 2005, a chance against Serphin Maltese.

Why so little effort? Strategists said that to run a real campaign against an incumbent you needed $300,000 to $500,000, as well as a strong local person willing to run.

Both Titone and Marino lost by around 20 percentage points and 10,000 votes, according to published returns. Baldeo, on the other hand, came within 783 votes of winning in a race with very low turnout. He spent about $60,000.

But what’s another two years of GOP control? As commenter Rich informed me, the Democrats have the held the State Senate for all of two years (1964-1966) since 1939. Why rush?