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Democrats now have 32 Senate seats, but do not yet control the chamber

Last Updated by WMHT Web Editor on
Matt Ryan/WMHT

Senate Democrats now have 32 votes in the chamber, which under normal circumstances would mean they hold the majority in the Senate. But, in the New York State Senate,  it’s more complicated than that.

A hand count of the votes for a Senate race on Long Island finds that the Democrat, John Brooks, as beaten Republican incumbent Michael Venditto. Venditto’s father is under indictment on corruption charges. The Republicans have not yet formally conceded the race.

The result means Democrats now hold 32 seats, enough for a numerical majority in the 63 member Senate.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins says it's time for Democrats to lead the chamber.

“This is what makes the majority, 32 votes,” Senator Stewart Cousins said.

But, so far the Democrats are not poised to be in charge. That’s because of a couple of different factors. One, Democrat Simcha Felder , of Brooklyn, sits with the Republicans and has said he’s not likely to change that. That gives the GOP-led coalition 33 members. And , seven of the Democrats belong to a breakaway subgroup, known as the Independent Democrat Conference.  The IDC has formed a coalition with Republican Senators in the past, and has not said yet whether it might now ally with the Democrats.

Senator Stewart Cousins, who would become the state’s first female African-American legislative leader, says it’s “mind-boggling” that there would even be a question of whether Democrats should be in charge.

“We need to stop having this conversation about whether or not Democrats should govern when they have the majority,” Stewart Cousins said. “We shouldn’t have to justify our ability to govern.”

She says with President Trump in power in Washington in January, New York, democrats in the legislature and the governor’s office could be an important firewall and be a national leader against policies that could harm women, and immigrants. And she’s calling on Governor Cuomo to step in and help.

“I believe that the governor has a tremendous amount of influence,” Senator Stewart Cousins said.  

A number of progressive-leaning groups are also calling on Governor Cuomo to act.

“It becomes much more urgent right now,” said Karen Scharff , with Citizen Action Scharff. She says the Trump Administration is poised to rescind Obamacare and take away people’s health insurance, as well as cut Medicaid, which would greatly impact the state budget, and perhaps deport some undocumented immigrants.

“They’re bringing back, basically, Wall street economics  to Washington,” Scharff said

A spokeswoman for the Independent Democratic Conference issued a somewhat sarcastic response to the calls for unification, saying that Senator Stewart Cousins has not spoken to IDC Leader Senator Klein in over a month, and he has “no idea what her grand plan is for Democratic unity.”

Cuomo made the greatest effort since he’s been governor to campaign for Democratic candidates in 2016. He endorsed several candidates, and attended rallies. He spoke at a fundraiser back in October, where he said the IDC should join up with the rest of the Democrats, but that there would have to be compromises.   

“I believe the IDC will want to make a coalition,” Cuomo said on October 25th. “The Senate Democrats are going to have to be flexible, otherwise they could go with the Republicans.”

Cuomo’s office had no immediate comment on whether he’ll weigh in again on the Senate leadership struggle.   

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