ALBANY — State Senate Democrats officially clinched supermajority status in the Legislature’s upper chamber Tuesday, potentially gifting them additional negotiating power when it comes to cutting deals with Gov. Andrew Cuomo — as Republicans knocked off an incumbent Democrat.
State Sen. Peter Harckham (D-Putnam) declared victory in his reelection bid for the 40th district, besting Republican opponent, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who led in the vote count on election night but was outperformed by strong mail-in ballot turnout in Harckham’s favor.
“Mr. Astorino called Senator Harckham this morning to congratulate him on his victory and to offer him his support in any way. This was a close, close race, but we respect the will of the voters and wish Senator Harckham the best in his new term,” said Astorino spokesman William O’Riley.
Harckham’s win dashes a comeback bid by Astorino, once a rising star in the Republican Party party who also has run for governor.
The victory also means Senate Democrats have secured at least 42 seats in the 63-member chamber, gifting them the option to flex muscle at the negotiating table with the power to override Cuomo’s vetoes during the budget process.
“I’m thrilled to welcome my good friend Sen. Peter Harckham back to the State Senate. Senator Harckham has worked tirelessly to deliver results to the people of Westchester, Dutchess and Putnam Counties and earned this re-election,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) congratulated the returning Democrat.
“I look forward to continuing to partner with Senator Harckham as we tackle the many challenges ahead of us.”
Stewart-Cousins and Gianaris were in Albany Monday celebrating their conference’s wins across the state, as a number of Democratic candidates won in districts soon to be vacated by retiring Republican senators.
They batted down expectations that GOP candidate leads on election night would hold, arguing voters stood by accomplishments achieved during the last two years of Democratic control — the first in a decade — and sought to add more elected officials to their ranks.
Meanwhile, Republicans celebrated a win from businessman Mike Martucci in the 42nd district, as incumbent Democrat Jen Metzger (D-Rosendale) conceded Tuesday morning admitting making up the difference of less than 1 percent of outstanding absentee votes would be too tough a feat to push her over the edge.
“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to bring about positive change that improves people’s lives in this unique place we all love. In January, Mike Martucci will take this seat in the State Senate, and I wish him the best in his new position, because we all deserve good representation, regardless of our political point of view,” Metzger said in a statement, adding she will serve out the remainder of her term which expires in January.
Republicans campaigned heavily on changes to the state’s penal code, specifically alterations to New York’s bail laws, passed by Democrats last year.
They argued the “Defund the Police” movement and fiery protests that erupted following the death of Minnesota black man George Floyd unfairly disenfranchised law enforcement.
A stronger Democratic majority could force the governor’s hand when it comes to passing controversial legislation like raising taxes on the state’s wealthier earners, legalizing recreational marijuana and mobile sports betting — all topics that have been lobbied for by the left, and have been stalled.
Stewart-Cousins and Cuomo articulated the need for an additional federal stimulus package for state and local governments from Washington, D.C. under President-elect Joe Biden, but with the state’s concerning revenue shortfall and gaping budget gap wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, legislative leaders and Cuomo will may need to either make tough decisions like cutting spending in certain areas or raising revenue where they can.
Stewart-Cousins did not rule out the possibility of lawmakers’ return to Albany — be it in person or remotely due to social distancing and gathering limitations — ahead of January, in case elected officials do need to table such cuts or tax hikes.