New York Democrats may have rejoiced upon winning control of the State Senate for the first time in 43 years this month, but their celebration may have been premature.
The Nov. 4 election appeared to cement control of the state government for Democrats, who now occupy the governors office and both houses of the legislature. However, the newly minted majority has had trouble solidifying its foothold in Albany and, in one race, continues to face a vote count.
Immediately following the elections, four members of the party broke away, threatening not to support the ascendance of Senator Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) to the Senate majority leadership post. Known initially as the Gang of Four, the group included Senators Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn), Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx), Pedro Espada (D-Bronx), and Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens). Since then, Monserrate has dropped out of the group, but the support of the remaining three senators remains crucial if Democrats wish to effectively wield control over the 62-seat Senate.
At the moment, said professor Doug Muzzio of Baruch Colleges School of Public Affairs, they are waiting for the best offer, requesting their bids and selling their vote. He noted that the three remaining holdouts sought greater Hispanic leadership and Diaz sought a commitment of opposition to gay marriage from Smith.
But not all locals think the holdouts are a cause for worry. Malcolm Smith put a transition team in place, Sarah Scheinman, BC 12 and a member of the Columbia University Democrats, said. By January there will be a Democratic majority.
In the meantime, Democrats in the State House are still awaiting the outcome of a race between City Council member James Gennaro (D-Queens) and Republican Frank Padavan (R-Queens) which is currently too close to call.
Regardless of how Albanys leadership pans out, Muzzio said, constituents shouldnt expect much change. Whether Republicans or Democrats are in control, were not going to have fundamental change, he said. Theyre wholly owned subsidiaries of special interest groups.
As Democrats continue to struggle to clinch leadership in Albany, some logistics of New Yorks elections have been under scrutiny as well. According to the New York Times, mechanical-lever voting machines from Harlem and Washington Heights to Long Island broke down in the face of extensive turnout, forcing the use of emergency paper ballots and prompting the filing of 3,000 citizen complaints on Nov. 4.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, which monitors public policy, noted in a statement released after the election that the problems we saw before and on Election Day are proof that the process is way too complicated and the vast turnout put a major stress on the system.
On the other hand, the unequivocal winners of this election were the pre-election pollsters. They were only one to three points off, Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, said. Really precise.
Furthermore, he noted, the success of this years polls helped dispel notions about the inaccuracies of contemporary polls due to under-representation of cell phone users and the much-discussed Bradley effect which is said to distort support for black candidates.
Clearly those had no influence, he said.