BUFFALO—With wins against two incumbent Republican State Senators—Caesar Trunzo and Serf Maltese—Democrats have taken control of the State Senate, and will convene in Albany later today to hash out their agenda.
It is the first time Democrats have controlled the State Senate in 40 years. (The winner of the race between Democrat Jim Gennaro and Republican incumbent Frank Padavan has not yet been determined.)
"Today, change begins," Minority Leader Malcolm Smith said in a statement. "There is much at stake for New York families and we are committed to delivering for the people of this great state without the excessive partisanship that has stalled progress in Albany. We will rebuild New York's economy, protect middle income families, get New York working again, and make government more accountable."
For Democrats, the new majority means that legislators once confined to delivering potent sound bites during floor debates will now be in positions of greater influence.
One of the new players is Bill Stachowski, who fended off a close challenge from former police detective Dennis Delano.
At the Erie County Democratic victory party downtown, Stachowski savored his victory and said he hoped it would translate into more influence as he becomes chairman of the chamber's Finance Committee.
"I think that Western New York projects will get a longer look," he said. "And it looks like Western New York gets a bigger voice in how things are run."
Senator Antoine Thompson made the same point, but as the ranking minority member on the Cities and Environmental Conservation Committees.
Some consultants also note the Democrats now owe a debt to both the Working Families Party—which knocked on over 300,000 doors on behalf of Democrats Joe Addabbo and Brian Foley—as well as the Hotel Trades Council, which sent 200 canvassers through Queens.
The question now is what the party will do with its newfound power, and decades of stymied projects piled up. At least initially, the plan is to figure out how to best deal with a looming budget deficit, several senators said.
The Democrats will caucus in Albany Wednesday afternoon.