ALBANY — A conservative Democrat who has been key to the continued Republican control of the State Senate has agreed to stay with the GOP conference, Senate officials confirmed Monday.
Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) ended his silence since the Nov. 8 elections as to which party he would support.
Although a count of absentee ballots continues in two Long Island races that were too close to call on Election Day, Republicans say Felder’s decision seals majority control for the GOP.
The main Democratic conference says the outcome of those long counts still could give Democrats majority control if the conference unites with the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference.
“Senator Felder is an important member of our conference and we have great respect for him as both a person and as a public servant,” said Scott Reif, spokesman for the Republican majority. “We look forward to continuing to work with him to move this state forward.”
Felder has long said he would side with the party holding the majority because that’s the best way for him to bring more state aid to his district. Felder’s ideology also is more aligned with Republicans on social issues such as abortion rights.
Felder’s decision reduces the drama over the long count in the 8th Senate District, which includes portions of Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Democratic challenger John Brooks held a 33-vote lead over incumbent Republican Michael Venditto. Thousands of absentee ballots are expected to be counted over the next several days.
Republicans say they are confident about the absentee ballot count in the 5th Senate District where Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) has a lead of more than 2,000 votes over Democrat James Gaughran. The district covers parts of Nassau and Suffolk.
Part of the Democrats’ difficulty in taking control of the Senate, which has been run by Republicans for most of the past 50 years, is due to the rift within the Democratic Party. The IDC plans to continue as an independent conference, which makes the IDC a powerful force in close votes.
“Any Democrat who joins with Donald Trump’s Republican Party enables his continuing assault on immigrants, women, people of color, people of different faiths and our shared American values,” said Mike Murphy, spokesman for the mainline Democratic conference. “History will harshly judge those who put their personal political gain above taking a stand for justice at this critical juncture for our nation.”
Neither Felder nor the IDC could be reached immediately for comment.