Special Election Results: Democrats Win Senate Seats

  New Yorkers ranging from Buffalo to Long Island participated in eleven special elections for State legislative seats on Tuesday.  Nine assembly seats were up for election, however, the most anticipated were the two State Senate races, as Democrats looked to advance towards majority control of that House.  In the heavily Democratic 32nd Senate District in the South Bronx, a seat vacated by Ruben Diaz Sr. was filled as expected by Democratic Assemblyman Luis R. Sepulveda.

In Westchester’s 37th Senate District, Assemblywoman Shelley B. Mayer, a Democrat, earned a decisive victory with 61% of the vote over her Republican opponent Julie Killian who received 39% of the vote.  The seat was vacated by Democrat George Latimer after his election as Westchester County Executive last November.  Although Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one in the county, a large number of independent voters and new district lines set expectations for a tight race.

Maintaining both Senate seats was key to Democratic efforts to regain control of the Senate Chamber after November’s elections when every State legislative seat is up for voter approval.  Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo brokered a deal to reunite the former 8-member Senate Independent Democratic Caucus and the Senate Mainline Democrats (21 in number) to create a 29-member conference.  With yesterday’s election results, the two vacant Senate seats are filled by Democrats, creating a 31-member Democratic conference from what was just weeks ago a 21-member conference.  

The 31 Senate Democratic Conference does not include Democratic Senator Simcha Felder who, although not a member of the former IDC, has conferenced with the Republicans since his election in 2012.   Felder announced yesterday, prior to the closing of polls, that he will remain aligned with the Republicans, at least through the November elections.  Democrats were hoping that a victory in both Senate races would prompt Felder to return to the fold, giving them the needed 32 votes to form a majority.   Today Governor Cuomo released to the press a letter to Felder making the case for his immediate return to the Democratic fold.  Should Felder stick to his decision to remain with the Republicans, there would be no change in leadership this session, making the November statewide general election even more significant.  

Assembly results went as expected with most districts sticking with representatives of the same party as the previous office holder.  The exception being in Assembly District 10 which covers parts of Suffolk County, which flipped from red to blue. Democrat Steve Stern secured victory over Republican Janet Smitelli with 59% of the vote to her 41%. The seat was vacated by Republican Chad Lupinacci who was elected Huntington Town Supervisor last November. Another outlier race was Erie County’s 142nd Assembly seat which saw a Democrat running on the Republican line  (Eric T. Bohen) beat a follow Democrat Patrick B. Burke. Although Bohen ran on the Republican line, he has committed to caucusing with the Assembly Democrats. Democrat Mickey Kearns, now Erie County Clerk, previously won the seat, also in a special election, beating a fellow Democrat on the Republican and Independence Party lines.