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Trump could affect down ballot races in New York

Posted by Karen DeWitt on
CREDIT MATT RYAN/WMHT

Hillary Clinton’s widening lead over Donald Trump, is likely to affect down ballot races for Congress, where there are several contested seats, and for control of the State Senate in New York, where Republicans are barely clinging to the majority.

As recently as last summer, when the presidential candidates were tied in the polls, leading New York Republicans predicted that the state would be in play for Donald Trump, and that he could even help get down-ballot GOP candidates for Congress and the state legislature elected.

Trump’s New York campaign leader and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino predicted victory, by driving up votes upstate and on Long Island to make up for the Democratic stronghold of New York City .

“We’re going to win big in Long Island and in upstate,” Paladino predicted in July.

Paladino hasn’t changed his mind about Trump’s chances, but others in the Republican Party are now more doubtful. Erie County GOP Chair Nick Langworthy concedes that while Trump might still win in the Buffalo area, his chances of winning the state are slim to nonexistent.  

“We’re not a competitive battleground state, ” Langworthy said. “Given the enrollment disadvantage our state faces, I don’t see ultimately the electoral votes being a possibility for Donald Trump.”

Although the state does have a heavy Democratic voter enrollment advantage, the GOP has held the state Senate nearly non-stop for decades, partly due to the drawing of Senate districts to maximize Republican voters. Currently the GOP is one seat short of holding an absolute majority, one Democrat, Simcha Felder,  meets with their conference.

The leader of the Senate GOP, John Flanagan was very enthusiastic about Trump at the National Convention back in July.

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

In recent weeks, though, after the charges of sexual harassment against Trump became public, Flanagan said through a spokesman  that the comments were “offensive and intolerable” , and “do not represent the values” of the  Senate Republicans. But he did not withdraw his support of Trump. 

There is also a corruption scandal on Long Island that could hurt GOP candidates. The Republican Nassau County executive, among others is facing charges. Former Senate Leader Dean Skelos, who  is facing  prison time, is also from Long Island. He’s already been replaced by a Democrat.

Governor Cuomo, long criticized by others in his party for his camaraderie with the Senate Republicans and for not doing enough to help Democrats get elected to the Senate, has changed his tactics in recent days as the Trump candidacy has weakened.

Cuomo for the first time since he’s been governor headlined a major fundraiser for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee , and was the featured speaker at a rally for two Senate Democratic candidates on Long Island,  including Todd Kaminsky  who won the Senate seat of disgraced former Senate Leader Skelos, and Adam Haber a Democrat running in  an open seat vacated by Senator Jack Martins, a Republican who is running for Congress.

“These are two men who will do the right thing,” Cuomo said, to applause.

There are also several close Congressional races in New York where Presidential candidate preference and turnout could affect the race.

In the 19th district, former Assembly Minority Leader John Faso is tied with Democrat Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham Professor who challenged Governor Cuomo in a primary in 2014. Faso, in a recent debate on public television, parsed his stance on Trump carefully. Faso says he has not endorsed Trump, and still does not know exactly who he will be voting for President. But he says, that should not be confusing to voters.

“My position has been clear from the start,” Faso said. “I will support the Republican ticket, but I do have qualms about many of the things that have been said”.

Steve Greenberg, a political analyst and spokesman for Siena College polls, says the presidential candidate  may not have as much of an effect on Republican down ballot races as many think. He says Republican candidates are adept at standing on their own merits, and persuading voters in a heavily Democratic state to also vote for the GOP in some races.

“Republicans in New York have gotten used to the fact that they need to get voters who vote Democrat for some offices to come and support them,” Greenberg said.

And he says New York voters have shown many times in the past that they have no trouble splitting the ticket. 

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