ALBANY — Democrats on Tuesday seized control of the State Senate from Republicans for only the third time since World War II, flipping as many as four seats on Long Island, according to unofficial results.
Democrats said they rode an anti-Trump blue wave to lead in at least seven races previously held by Republicans, with two more too close to call, and held a hotly contested Democratic seat on Long Island, according to incomplete and unofficial results.
Democrats needed a net gain of just one seat on Tuesday to flip control of the 63-seat chamber, now held by Republicans with a 32-31 edge.
Democrat Monica R. Martinez defeated Republican Dean Murray, the local assemblyman, in the 3rd Senate District; James Gaughran beat veteran Republican Sen. Carl Marcellino of Syosset in the 5th Senate District; Democrat Kevin Thomas beat veteran Republican Sen. Kemp Hannon of Garden City in the 6th District; and Democrat Anna Kaplan defeated Republican Sen. Elaine Phillips of Flower Hill in the 7th District, according to unofficial results.
Democratic Sen. John E. Brooks of Seaford also won a second term in the 8th District against Republican Jeffrey Pravato.
“Albany has never seen this scale of turnover,” said Joe Dinkin, campaign director of the liberal Working Families Party that drove much of the Democratic effort. “The old ways of doing things are over.”
The Democratic wins mean Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers will likely become the Senate's first female majority leader.
“The voters of New York State have spoken and they have elected a clear Democratic majority to the State Senate," she said, predicting Democrats could have as many as 40 seats in the 63-seat chamber. "While the results of some elections are still being determined, at least 32 Senate Democratic Conference members have already won election tonight. I am confident our majority will grow even larger after all results are counted, and we will finally give New Yorkers the progressive leadership they have been demanding.”
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) conceded the majority just before 11:30 p.m.
"While tonight’s results are disappointing, the Senate Republican Conference will continue to be a strong and important voice in Albany," Flanagan said. "This election is over, but our mission is not. Senate Republicans will never stop advocating for the principles we believe in or the agenda that New Yorkers and their families deserve."
In the 39th District in the Hudson Valley near West Point, Democrat James Skoufis, the local assemblyman, was leading Republican Tom Basile in the district that was long held by the GOP, and in the 42nd District in Orange County, Democrat Jen Metzger led Republican Ann Rabbit for a vacant seat long held by the Republicans.
In the 22nd District in Brooklyn, veteran Republican Sen. Martin Golden was trailing Democrat Andrew Gounardes in a close race Democrats hoped to flip. In another race too close to call, Republican Sen. Susan Serino narrowly led Democrat Karen Smythe in the 41st District in Dutchess County.
Democrats promised they would unlock many liberal issues bottled up by the Republican-led Senate. Democratic priorities include passing stronger state abortion laws to stave off an effort to repeal the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion; creating single-payer health care that they say will cover another 1 million New Yorkers and end high copays and insurance premiums; legalize recreational use of marijuana; ensure more rights for lesbians, gay and transgender people; further toughen gun control laws; increase aid to urban schools; and make voting easier, which would include authorizing early voting.
Republicans promised to be the only check on an otherwise all-Democratic-controlled state government they said would be run by New York City Democrats focused on their own interests. The Republicans promised to enact more property tax relief; curb state spending; create better jobs programs; enhance school safety, which could include posting police officers and retired officers in schools; and school aid for all districts, including those in the suburbs and upstate.
Democrats also campaigned to block Republican President Donald Trump’s policies on taxes, immigration, social welfare programs, civil rights and environmental protection.
Most Republicans, however, tried to walk a fine line on Trump, who is deeply unpopular in New York. New York Republicans have said they would support some of his measures, such as those that spur the economy, while distancing themselves form Trump’s heated rhetoric.
Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone, who was dispatched statewide to show Democrats how to win in Republican areas, called Stewart-Cousins “the soon-to-be majority leader.”
“I look forward to working together to protect suburban homeowners and finally pass good-government reforms that have been stalled for far too long,” Bellone said.
Democrats controlled the Senate only twice: In 1965 until Republicans won a special election months later; and in 2008, when Democrats won 32 seats in what was then a 62-seat chamber. Republicans scored a net gain of two seats in 2010, giving them a 32-seat majority plus a conservative Democrat who allied with them. GOP rule was further solidified in 2010 when four Democrats broke away from the Democratic majority to form the Independent Democratic Conference, which allied with the Republican majority and Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to get some progressive measures to the floor. It dissolved in April under pressure within the party.