With the opening of the Albany legislative session, the newly elected Democratic bloc — the “Long Island Six” — already are ensconced as a significant bloc in the party's new majority.
But one veteran Republican lobbyist, Desmond Ryan, warns that the GOP may face even bigger problems almost before they know it.
“No one’s looking at the big picture, but the ‘Long Island Six’ could easily become the ‘Long Island Nine,’ badda-bing, badda-boom,” he said.
Were it to come to pass, it would rival the former nine-member GOP Senate cadre from Long Island that wielded great power in the chamber for decades.
Ryan said those who could face significant challenges or tire of being in the minority in 2020 include the Senate’s most senior Republican, Kenneth LaValle of Port Jefferson, 79, who has served for 42 years; Minority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), who is in alcohol rehab; and GOP Sen. Phil Boyle of Bay Shore, who last year tried to exit the Senate by running for Suffolk County sheriff, but lost a GOP primary.
Local Democrats, meanwhile, have a bench of significant contenders including Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who sits with Democrats, for LaValle's First District seat; Suffolk County Legis. Kara Hahn or Assemb. Steve Stern for Flanagan’s Second District seat; and former Suffolk Legis. Louis D’Amaro, who lost narrowly to Boyle for Senate last year.
What makes the prospects tantalizing for Democrats is that 2020 is a presidential election year when GOP President Donald Trump may be facing re-election — possibly driving voter turnout beyond even high presidential norms.
Even more important, politically, the state legislative majorities elected in 2020 will redraw state legislative and congressional district lines by 2022. The changes will last for a decade.
Additional Senate victories on Long Island could boost the Senate’s 40-seat Democratic to 42, making legislation immune to gubernatorial vetoes.
Republicans, however, say history indicates that a city-centric Democratic majority will repeat past mistakes, such as the unpopular MTA payroll tax. Freshman Democratic Sens. Brian Foley of Blue Point, and Craig Johnson of Port Washington backed the measure and lost re-election as a result.
“It won’t last,” said Anthony Pancella, Suffolk GOP’s vice chairman. “It may have changed temporarily, but Democrats will prove they don’t govern efficiently and people will demand to return a balance in state government.”
Democrats say new Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins from suburban Westchester will avoid such mistakes.
“There are a lot of targets,” said county lawmaker Hahn of Setauket.
Hahn said she loves her county post and it’s too early for her to consider any higher office. “But’s that’s not to say, I haven’t been approached,” she said.