A special election in Harlem on Tuesday May 23rd gave Democrats a majority in the New York state Senate to match its majority in the Assembly—but the party won’t have more power.
Because of an alliance between nine Democratic senators and the GOP, Republicans will maintain control over the Senate, barring the Democratic Party from a coveted trifecta in Albany—controlling the Assembly, Senate and governorship.
With the Democratic Party controlling a historically low number of legislatures nationwide, the nine renegade Democrats in New York empowering the GOP are now under pressure to rejoin the fold.
Ahead of the state’s 2018 legislative elections, there are already Democratic primary campaigns under way to oust the New York rebels, while national Democratic groups are seeking to broker a reconciliation between the renegades and the mainliners.
“New York [has] the opportunity to become the seventh state in the nation with a completely Democratic state government,” Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said earlier this week. “I am willing to do whatever might be helpful to bring together a Democratic majority in the New York state Senate.”
Democrats have a vast majority in the New York Assembly and the governor, Andrew Cuomo, is a Democrat.
The eight-person Independent Democratic Conference, led by Sen. Jeff Klein of the Bronx, formed six years ago when the Senate Democrats were riven by coups and scandals, because Democrats at the time didn’t support the Democratic leader and had tried to oust him.
The GOP has benefited from the alliance because at times it would have been a minority conference without the dissident Democrats plus another Democrat, centrist Simcha Felder of Brooklyn. The Democrats in the bipartisan coalition have touted that it raised the minimum wage while allied with the GOP, while the GOP has touted its middle-class tax cuts.
Control of the New York state Legislature could affect the national party, because the New York state Senate controls congressional district boundaries and will redraw them by 2020.
But the renegade Democrats are doubling down on their alliance with the GOP, saying their liberal bona fides are solid, and that their mainline counterparts are grandstanders who might not pass liberal bills even if they were in control.
On Tuesday, Brian Benjamin, a Democratic organizer, won the Harlem seat left vacant by a Democrat who joined the New York City Council. Mr. Benjamin, who will ally with his party stating “I could never get my arms around this idea of helping Repulicans…….my Mom would kill me.”