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Is Cuomo helping Democrats take back the State Senate?

Posted by Karen DeWitt on

Senate Democrats hope once again to take leadership of the Senate away from Republicans in the 2016 elections. The chief engineer of strategy for the Democrats says the Presidential candidates at the top of the ticket will help his candidates win.

The leader of the Senate Democrats, Andrea Stewart Cousins, at the DNC to witness the historic nomination of the first woman candidate for President in a major political party, says she hopes later on this year to break some barriers of her own, and become the first woman, and female African American, Senate Majority Leader.

“I know the chances are real,” Senator Stewart Cousins, a Democrat from Westchester. “There’s no question about that”.

Senator Stewart Cousins says Democrats always pick up seats in a Presidential election year, but this time the choices are even more sharply defined. 

“You can be with the part of Trump, which is the party that’s going backwards, and fearful, and divisive,” Stewart Cousins said. “Or you can be with the party that understands that the future is moving forward, in faith, together.”

Senator Michael Gianaris is deputy Democratic Leader in the Senate, and top campaign strategist. He also believes that the strength of Hillary Clinton in key Senate districts is going to help Democrats to retake the State Senate.

“There’s enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton in New York, and tremendous antipathy toward Donald Trump,” Gianaris said.

Gianaris says there was already a test run of the relative strengths and weaknesses of Clinton and Trump in the suburbs during the special election in April to fill the Long Island seat held by former Senate Leader Dean Skelos. Skelos is facing prison for corruption convictions. The contest was held on the same day as the Presidential primary, and the Democratic candidate, Todd Kaminsky, won.

Gianaris predicts says Democrats will do very well in the suburbs of New York City, but he admits that as you travel further up the Thruway, support for Trump grows stronger.

Earlier in July at the Republican National Convention, Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan took the opposite view from the Democrats on Trump, saying he thinks the GOP Presidential nominee will help Republican Senators win and keep seats.

“I am supporting Donald Trump for President,” Flanagan declared. “And I’m going to do so with grace, with diplomacy, with passion, with fervor.”

Gianaris says those statements were music to his ears.

“We always knew that the Republicans would go down with the ship with Donald Trump,” Gianaris said. “But we never thought they’d sign on to be his first mates as they hit the iceberg.”

Gianaris says if the GOP Senate candidates want to align with Trump “we’re happy to help them make that point”.

Governor Cuomo has been criticized in the past for not doing enough to help Democrats regain the Senate, which they held briefly from 2008 until 2010.

Cuomo, asked about his support at the DNC on Tuesday, says he does back Democrats for Senate, if they are worthy candidates.

“I support Senate Democrats, “Cuomo told reporters in a question and answer session at the DNC.

But Cuomo says they need to have “integrity” and “good character”.

“That doesn’t mean I’m going to support a criminal because they’re a Democrat,” said Cuomo, who said he was not referring to anyone in particular.

Gianaris says he’d welcome Cuomo’s support, but points out that the governor is not actually on the ticket this year. The next governor’s race is not until 2018, so Cuomo’s influence will have far less effect than the Presidential candidates. Gianaris says the popularity of US Senator Charles Schumer who’s running for reelection, as well as some hot congressional races, will also have influence. But he says the governor has a large campaign war chest, and assistance with fundraising would be very helpful.

“We are always outspent by the Republicans,” Gianaris said.

The GOP led Senate has helped the governor enact socially progressive measures, like marriage equality and gun control, as well as raising the minimum wage. Republican Senators have also helped the governor enact fiscally conservative measures not backed by most Democrats, including a property tax cap.   Cuomo did little to help Senate Democrats in the 2014 races. But he denies any accusations that he’s really on the side of the Senate Republicans, saying he does not want to replicate the gridlock of Washington, and will work with whoever is elected.

“The people chose a Republican Senate,” said Cuomo, who said he won’t “reject” the people’s choice. “I’m governor, not King.”

The Democrats do currently have the numerical majority in the Senate, but in a complicated political scenario, one of the Democrats meets with the Republican caucus, and five other break away Democrats meet in their own separate group.

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