Elected as Democrat, state senator to join Republicans

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ALBANY -- An incoming Brooklyn state senator, elected as a Democrat, said Tuesday that he'll join the Republican conference.

That means control of the state Senate could hinge on one upstate contest that's pending a recount.

Simcha Felder last week defeated Sen. David Storobin (R-Brooklyn) in a heavily Democratic yet conservative-leaning district. Felder had told a Brooklyn publication during the campaign that he might join the Republican conference if elected. A week after his victory, he followed through.

"I have enormous respect for senators from both parties, but I must choose to caucus with those senators who will best serve the communities I represent," Felder said in a statement.

Election Night results showed Democrats ahead in 33 of the 63 Senate races. But the Democratic tally included a race in a Capital Region-Catksills district where Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk leads Republican George Amedore by just 139 votes with an estimated 8,000 absentee and paper ballots to count.An Amedore win, coupled with Felder's defection, would give Republicans 32 seats and keep Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) in power.

A Tkaczyk win would seem to give Democrats control but there's a possibility that the four-member "Independent Democratic Caucus," led by Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), could put its support behind Skelos.

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The caucus last year broke off from the other Democrats in the chamber and occasionally voted with Republicans on key issues.

There is another recount in a Hudson Valley district, but Democrat Terry Gipson has a healthy 1,600-vote lead over Sen. Stephen Saland (R-Poughkeepsie).

Skelos issued a statement saying Republicans would welcome Felder as "a valuable member of our conference."

Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, countered that "the voters sent a clear message on election night that they want the Senate led by a Democratic Majority."

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