With 3 undecided races, State Senate control up in air
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ALBANY - Control of the State Senate was still uncertain last night with three races, including one in Nassau County, remaining too close to call.
Democrats must win all of them to keep the majority they captured in 2008, while Republicans need to win two. In the 62-seat chamber, a majority requires 32 and Republicans have won 30 seats to Democrats' 29.
If neither political party achieves a majority, the Senate will be deadlocked 31-31, with the lieutenant governor casting the deciding vote on procedural matters but not on the passage of legislation. The chamber was deadlocked in June 2009 after a GOP-led coup.
This "nightmare scenario" was downplayed by Democrats and Republicans Wednesday as both predicted victory after next week's tallying of absentee, affidavit and emergency ballots.
Skelos' count includes Republicans defeating incumbents Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) and Antoine Thompson (D-Buffalo). He said another seat, held by Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Westchester), was a tossup.
However, Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, said the three incumbents would eventually claim victory. "We started in the majority, we remain in the majority, and we will pull out all the stops to stay in the majority. Every vote counts and there are still thousands of votes to be counted," he said.
Both parties sought court orders impounding ballots. The stakes are especially high because whoever controls the Senate will play a crucial role in redrawing the legislative district boundaries for the next 10 years. The Assembly remains firmly in Democratic hands.
In Nassau's 7th Senate district, Johnson was trailing Republican Jack Martins by 415 votes with all election districts reported. Nearly 3,400 absentee ballots have been returned out of 4,937 issued, according to the Nassau elections board. Absentee ballots must be received by Nov. 9.
In the 7th, Democrats outnumber Republicans, 83,758 to 66,616. But voters not affiliated with a party total 48,301, while the Independence and Conservative parties together account for 8,568. In addition to the GOP ballot line, Martins was on the Independence and Conservative lines.
Martins, the Mineola mayor, declared victory Wednesday, saying, "We're comfortable the results will hold up."
A Johnson spokesman referred queries to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.
Political experts and elections officials said the outcome of the three races probably will not be known for at least a week.
State senate uncertainty
Control of the 62-member State Senate was in doubt Wednesday with neither political party winning the 32 seats needed to be the majority after Tuesday's general elections. Three races will decide who gains power.
Going into Tuesday's general elections, the Senate was split:
Democrats - 32
Republicans - 29
Vacant seats - 1
Wednesday, the split was:
Democrats - 29
Republicans - 30
Undecided races - 3
To achieve a majority, Democrats need to win all three of the undecided races and the Republicans need to win two.
Races in contention:
Incumbent Suzi Oppenheimer (D) was leading businessman Bob Cohen (R) by 180 votes with 80 percent of election districts reported, excluding absentee, affidavit and emergency ballots.
Incumbent Antoine Thompson (D) was trailing Mark Grisanti (R) by 468 votes with all election districts reported, excluding absentee, affidavit and emergency ballots.
- Compiled by James T. Madore
SOURCES: Boards of election in Nassau, Westchester, Erie and Niagara counties; NYS Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and Senate Republican Campaign Committee