By HERB BOYD
Special to the AmNews
Unlike the rest of the country, where the Republicans reaped a harvest of votes and almost ran the midterm tables, the state senate race in New York remains a big question mark with three races still up for grabs.
Not in doubt, though, are the state’s top positions that were handily retained by the Democrats with Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo defeating Carl Paladino by a two-to-one margin out of a total of some 2.5 million votes. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand beat back their Republican opponents; Eric Schneiderman, after a nip and tuck race with Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, is the new attorney general-elect; and Thomas DiNapoli, who replaced Alan Havesi as state comptroller, finally edged out Harry Wilson.
All of the notable incumbent Democratic congressmen and women were re-elected, including Gregory Meeks, Edolphus Towns, Jose Serrano, Carolyn Maloney, Anthony Wiener, Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velazquez, Yvette Clarke and Charles Rangel, who decisively topped Michel Faulkner in the 15th Congressional District.
Meanwhile, the state awaits to the outcome of the race between Democratic Senator Antoine Thompson and defense attorney Mark Grisanti in a heavily Democratic district that includes parts of Erie and Niagara counties. They were virtually tied.
Almost as close is the race in Long Island’s 7th District between Democratic Senator Craig Johnson and GOP candidate Jack Martins. Only a few votes separated them.
Running neck and neck in the 37th Senate District in Westchester County are Democratic Senator Suzi Oppenheimer and Republican Bob Cohen. Oppenheimer has held the position since 1984.
At stake is the majority in the New York State Senate, where the Democrats currently lead by the narrow margin of 32 to 30. Given that this is a census year, the party at the helm in each chamber takes the lead in redrawing the legislative district lines. This means that the party in power and its incumbents are protected for the next 10 years.
If the final result is 31 to 31, incoming Lt. Governor Robert Duffy could break certain procedural matters, like electing officers of the Senate, but he could not break ties on legislation, thereby necessitating a power-sharing arrangement to move forward a body of elected officials that has been, for the most part, stuck in a deadlock.
In the State Assembly, the Democrats held sway, maintaining the majority of the 150 seats, but it remains to be seen if they’ll have the 100-seat minimum needed to override a governor’s veto.
Many African-American and Latino voters were closely watching several races, particularly the fate of the Freedom Party with Councilman Charles Barron running for governor. With 1 percent of vote, Barron tallied some 20,000 votes, far short of the 50,000 required to keep the party on the ballot.
Among the things that might have hindered the bid for the ballot was the number of candidates in the race and, curiously, Jimmy McMillan with his The Rent is Too Damn High Party, polled nearly 40,000 votes. Plus, it was a midterm election, which traditionally minimizes the overall turnout, not to mention that a number of Black voters were clearly exasperated with the layout and design of the ballot, to say nothing of the new electronic voting process.
None of these setbacks bothered the Green Party, whose candidate, Howie Hawkins, received more than the 50,000 votes required to maintain a position on the ballot.
Almost flying below the radar screen was Nicole Paultre-Bell’s quest in a special council election in the 28th District of Queens, where she was seeking to fill the seat left by Thomas White, who died suddenly this past summer.
Paultre-Bell, the fiancée of Sean Bell, who was killed in hail of police bullets four years ago, came in second behind Ruben Wills, a former aide to Councilman Leroy Comrie, garnering 25 percent of the total tally or a little more than 2,200 votes.
Wills will serve until 2011, at which time there will be another primary and general election for the remainder of White’s term through 2013.
During his victory speech Tuesday evening from a ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, Cuomo, 52, acknowledged the anger and frustration of voters. “They’re disgusted, and they are right,” he said without ever mentioning Paladino’s name, “And what they are saying today is they want reform, and they want that government in Albany changed, and that’s what they’re going to get.”
In what can be roughly construed as a concession speech, the Tea Party–backed Paladino wielded a baseball bat, using it to symbolize his continued stance against the boondoggle in Albany. But, in effect, the controversial opponent from Buffalo struck out miserably.