GOP control of State Senate in question

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. (July 26, 2012)

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. (July 26, 2012) (Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa)

With the apparent loss of two potentially crucial upstate seats, New York Republicans on Wednesday were left struggling to hang on to their State Senate majority as votes in various races are due to be tallied and recanvassed in the coming days and perhaps even weeks.

After what proved in large part to be a display of Democratic strength in the state -- buoyed by a big presidential election turnout -- the sole GOP power base for Republicans statewide was thus left threatened.

President Barack Obama won the state's electoral votes, while U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand glided to re-election. In the nationally watched First Congressional District in Suffolk, Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) prevailed in his second straight contest against Republican businessman Randy Altschuler, with preliminary tallies showing results at 52 to 48 percent.


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Still, there were GOP victories of note on Long Island. For one, Edward P. Romaine defeated Brian Beedenbender for Brookhaven Town supervisor. And GOP candidates appeared ahead in all nine Senate races for Nassau and Suffolk, including Assemb. Philip Boyle (R-Bay Shore), who declared victory over Legis. Ricardo Montano (D-Central Islip) in the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Owen Johnson.

Going into Tuesday's election, the Republicans held a 33-29 advantage in Albany's upper house.

Scott Reif, a spokesman for Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), said early Wednesday: "We are confident that once all the votes are in, we will retain our majority."

But Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) who headed his party's efforts to recapture the upper house in Albany, also expressed confidence early Wednesday in ultimate victory, noting that Democrats appear for now to be leading in 32 races, a majority.

Gianaris said in a statement: "Last night, New Yorkers spoke clearly and with a single voice. All across our great state, voters overwhelmingly stood up in favor of a Democratic Majority in the State Senate. Now, we look forward to rolling up our sleeves and working with Governor Cuomo to enact the progressive agenda that fulfills the true promise of the Empire State. I am honored that we can expect several new Democratic Senators to join us in this effort."

The two seats that the Democrats appeared to win that had been Republican were in Poughkeepsie, where by the latest counts incumbent Stephen Saland trailed challenger Terry Gipson, and in Rochester, where GOP Assemb. Sean Hanna was reported losing to Democrat Ted O'Brien.

In the current redistricting, the number of Senate seats expanded from 62 to 63. A new district drawn by the Republicans was expected to give the party an easy chance to expand in one area. But for that seat in the Capital District, Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk was reported by the AP to be leading Republican Assemb. George Amedore.

On a federal level, perhaps the biggest suspense in the region came from the Bishop-Altschuler race.

With his family standing by him, Bishop, said: "We rose above it, and we came out on the other end. My opponent may have had the guys with the big checks. I had the guys with the big hearts."

Altschuler conceded just around midnight. "I'd like to congratulate Tim Bishop on his win tonight," he said, as soon as he stepped to the podium in Patchogue.

And in the 2nd District, Republican incumbent Peter King won another term, beating Democrat Vivianne C. Falcone, as did Democratic incumbent Steve Israel, who emerged victorious over Republican Stephen Labate in the 3rd District race.

In her victory speech at the Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan where state Democrats convened on election night, Gillibrand thanked New Yorkers, as her husband and two young sons sat nearby.

"I can't thank you enough for the honor and privilege of continuing to serve this state and to fight for New York families in the United States Senate," Gillibrand said.

She commended her opponent, saying that it was the first campaign in the state where two women ran for a U.S. Senate seat.

Gillibrand also spoke about the devastation the state had seen after superstorm Sandy, promising that New Yorkers "will rebuild better and stronger."

"Sen. Gillibrand has proven herself to be an absolute . . . force in the United States Senate," said Assemb. Keith Wright, co-chair of the New York State Democratic Party. "Kirsten has delivered by working across the aisle."

Earlier in the night, Republican party officials had said Long's campaign -- even if she lost -- will be judged as successful. In a 10-minute speech, Long conceded the race, thanking "allies in the tea party."

Long said, "I'm disappointed that Sen. Gillibrand never really engaged on the main issues that confront New York and Americans in this campaign." She cited the national debt, taxes and other economic factors.

In the 4th District, Democratic incumbent Carolyn McCarthy won re-election, beating her challenger, Republican Nassau County Legis. Francis X. Becker Jr.

"We prevailed tonight because the voters of Long Island chose their candidates based on our records," McCarthy said in a statement, noting that Long Islanders braved a post-Sandy world to get to the polls. "Tomorrow, we go back to work to continue fighting to get the lights back on, to get gas flowing again, and to help get the lives of Long Islanders back on track after a very difficult week."

Incumbent Democrat Gregory Meeks won over Republican Allan Jennings Jr. for the 5th District, which includes Elmont, North Valley Stream and Inwood, along with southeast Queens.

State Sen. Kenneth LaValle gave a victory speech in Suffolk County on Tuesday night, celebrating his win over Democrat Bridget Fleming, and State Sen. John Flanagan won over Democrat Errol Toulon Jr. State Sen. Dean Skelos, a Republican, won over Democratic challenger Thomas Feffer in the 9th State Senate District race.

Republican Lee Zeldin won over Democrat Francis Genco in the 3rd State Senate District race.

Still outstanding early Wednesday morning was the outcome of Democratic candidate Ryan Cronin's bid to unseat Republican incumbent Kemp Hannon in the 6th State Senate District race.

Early Wednesday, Hannon said he feels he won the vote.

"Our numbers show that we have won by several thousand votes," he said, adding that a count will likely be required because of the number of paper ballots cast.

The contest between Democratic challenger Daniel Ross and Republican incumbent Jack Martins in the 7th State Senate District race also was not called. And Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. had a definite lead in his bid to keep his 8th State Senate District seat against Democratic challenger Carol Gordon.

In the 22 State Assembly races at stake, races were called for:

Independent Fred W. Thiele in the 1st District.

Republican Daniel Losquadro in the 2nd District.

Democrat Steven Englebright in the 4th District.

Republican Alfred Graf in the 5th District.

Democrat Philip Ramos in the 6th District.

Republican Andrew Garbarino in the 7th District.

Republican Michael Fitzpatrick in the 8th District.

Republican Joseph Saladino in the 9th District.

Republican Chad Lupinacci in the 10th District.,

Democrat Robert Sweeney in the 11th District.

Democrat Charles Lavine in the 13th District.

Republican Michael Montesano in the 15th District,

Democrat Michelle Schimel in the 16th District.

Republican Thomas McKevitt in the 17th District.

Democrat Earlene Hooper in the 18th District.

Republican Edward Ra in the 19th District.

Republican Brian Curran in the 21st District.

Republican Andrew Raia ran unopposed for the 12th District.

Still outstanding as of early Wednesday were:

The 3rd District race between Democrat Edward Hennessey and Republican Dean Murray.

The 14th District race between Democrat John Brooks and Republican David McDonough.

The 20th District race between Republican David Sussman and Democrat Harvey Weisenberg.

Nassau GOP chairman Joe Mondello said that turnout in Long Beach was poor because of Sandy, which could have ramifications for Weisenberg's chances at re-election.

"I think it's going to be closer than anyone suspected," Mondello said.

In Nassau County, Michael Venditto was leading over fellow Republican Joanne Maglione for 12th District county legislator. The race was a special election to replace a vacant seat created by the death last month of Legis. Peter J. Schmitt (R-Massapequa).

Democrat Michaelle C. Solages won over Sean Wright, an Independence Party candidate running on the Republican line, for the newly created 22nd Assembly District seat, which covers Elmont, North Woodmere, Valley Stream, Bellerose, South Floral Park and parts of Franklin Square and Floral Park.

Voters in Brookhaven chose Republican Edward P. Romaine over Democrat Brian Beedenbender.

Ed Romaine took the podium at The Emporium in Patchogue to thunderous applause when Brookhaven Republican chairman Jesse Garcia introduced him as the new town supervisor.

Romaine thanked his campaign workers and said one of his first goals will be to restore power to the town, which was hit hard by superstorm Sandy.

In Babylon, Democratic incumbent Rich Schaffer defeated Republican challenger Mark Gallo for supervisor.

Meanwhile, Mondello estimated that 50 percent of voting machines failed in that county, with a total of 60,000 to 100,000 ballots that did not go into the machines at the polling places. Those ballots will be inserted into machines at the board of elections and counted later -- a process that will slow results.

"It went absolutely terribly," Mondello said. "We have never had an election like this."

William T. Biamonte, Democratic commissioner at the Nassau County Board of Elections, said that the county experienced "a lot of problems" with the voting machines, adding that this election was the first time the machines had been tested with such a large volume of voters.

He estimated there would be about 20,000 emergency ballots and 20,000 to 25,000 affidavit ballots received in that county. About 28,000 absentee ballots have been received so far, with the deadline for such ballots extended to Nov. 17.

Late Tuesday night, unscanned ballots from across the county were brought to the Nassau County Board of Elections, with another shipment cast by displaced Nassau residents expected from New York City.

A court order is in place that allows for 24-hour police protection for the ballots, along with camera surveillance, Biamonte said.

"We have to protect every vote," he said.

The Suffolk County Board of Elections reported no significant problems with voting machines in that county, although officials there said Tuesday night they won't even know how many affidavit ballots were filed, or in what district, for at least a day or two.

With Scott Eidler, Mackenzie Issler, Robert Brodsky, Aisha Al-Muslim, Rick Brand, Patrick Whittle, Gary Dymski, Sophia Chang and Mitchell Freedman

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