Nearly a month after Election Day, control of the State Senate remains uncertain, at least at press time. Absentee votes are being counted in an extremely close race in Ulster County, where Republican George Amedore holds a 900-vote lead over Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk. If the Republicans hold the Ulster seat, the GOP will very likely maintain control over the Senate by just a single seat. That’s because Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder has decided to support the Republicans’ leadership.
If, however, the Democrats win the seat, control of the Legislature’s upper house could change hands—a result that could be disastrous for sane, cooperative policy-making in Albany. It would put the spotlight on a four-member independent caucus of Democrats who could put principle ahead of party by supporting the Republican leader, Dean Skelos.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and all New Yorkers who are tired of politics as usual in Albany, should be rooting for Mr. Amedore in Ulster County. Outright Republican control of the Senate would prevent the spectacle of both parties bidding for the support of the independent Democrats—which wouldn’t do much to inspire confidence in how Albany does its business.
Still, if that’s what it takes, then so be it. Neither the governor’s agenda nor the public good would be served by a return to Democratic control of the Senate. When Democrats under Brooklyn Senator John Sampson finally won control of the chamber in the 2008 election, they plunged Albany into a series of scandals and ethics violations that, in some ways, helped lead to Mr. Cuomo’s election in 2010 as a reformer—despite, of course, his long presence as a public figure in state politics.
Things hit rock bottom when the contract to convert Aqueduct Racetrack into a combined track-casino had to be rebid after it was revealed that political insiders tried to rig the process so that Queens power brokers were on the inside. The Aqueduct mess served as the Democratic Senate leadership’s legacy—and it remains a cautionary tale as this leadership once again hangs in the balance.
Mr. Cuomo has proved to be an effective deal-maker and even a gentle persuader—it was his efforts, remember, that persuaded a handful of Republicans to support marriage equality last year. He has a stake in the leadership race, for if he wants to continue to reform state government, he’ll need a competent, willing partner. And, frankly, he won’t find one among the Democratic leaders in the Senate.
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