The State Capitol in Albany.

The State Capitol in Albany. Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

Face it: The broad outlines of New York’s two-party dynamics have steadily but dramatically morphed in recent years to make the whole body politic more like a one-and-a-half party system.

Is this change healthy for our communities?

For a long time, Long Island towns, villages, school districts and other public jurisdictions and institutions could exercise influence in Albany, regardless of who was governor, through their representatives in the State Senate’s moderate Republican majority and other GOP power domains. Long Island was once the home of legislative leaders. Republican Perry Duryea from Montauk was Assembly speaker and the GOP's Ralph Marino, Dean Skelos and John Flanagan served as Senate majority leaders.

That bloc is gone. Long Islanders serving under the Democratic supermajority have let that role slip away. This spring, they couldn't even seem to capitalize on a chance to put in a fix on water-rate increases in Nassau County.

Now, for reasons demographers and future historians can endeavor to explain, the Democrats — propelled by numbers from one-party New York City — have a lock on the governorship, the comptroller’s and attorney general’s offices, and the State Legislature. In Long Island’s counties, both executives and one legislative majority are Democratic. The "out" party has failed to compensate for long-term enrollment losses by winning crossover votes.

The jargon of progressives able to gain an edge in urban Democratic primaries doesn't move, and even threatens to alienate, most of Long Island.


When Republicans win in so-called "purple" jurisdictions, it’s often with the help of unaffiliated voters or "blanks." At last count, these individuals made up more than 3 million of the state’s 13 million voters, of whom another 6.7 million are registered Democrats and 2.9 million are Republicans.

Former Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan

Former Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan Credit: Randee Daddona

Tens of thousands of others belong to minor parties, which mostly seem to serve as factions of the major parties.

Of 150 Assembly members, 106 are Democrats, a supermajority. And of 64 Assembly members from New York City, only two are Republican. But 12 of Long Island's 22 Assembly members are Republican, a majority of the delegation.

In the Senate, Democrats hold another supermajority, 43-20. Only one of 24 state senators representing New York City is a Republican. But on Long Island, four of nine senators are Republicans.

Against this backdrop comes the departure of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo — a Democrat who early on proved accommodating to Long Island’s regional priorities and its traditional GOP leanings, at least as long as Republicans held sway in the Senate. The evidence rests in key bread-and-butter issues, from moves early in Cuomo's tenure to restrain taxes, most notably via the property tax cap, to pushing big key construction projects and business-development deals.

Former Senate Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos

Former Senate Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos Credit: Charles Eckert

With Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul getting her bearings, the state's biggest partisan power broker right now may well be U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who projects an understanding of the needs of moderate voters in the suburbs while pushing the national party's general agenda in Washington. He'll need to keep attending to both. His alienations from Cuomo weren't ideological.

Clashes over policy within the dominant party continue, however, on a district level. Democratic candidates on Long Island are more likely to put pragmatism before anything that sounds too lefty or "woke" for the mainstream. On the other side: In one email last week, the Democratic Socialists of America, with whom a few urban legislators signal alliance, spun Cuomo's resignation as their victory: "We are within striking distance of winning universal healthcare, social housing, and a Green New Deal."


New York’s broke and battered state GOP has yet to emerge from the national party’s Trumpian grip with positive, practical alternatives that address this state’s health, housing, fiscal, social and other problems — or inspire confidence they can do these things better. New York Republicans used to have a better-defined policy approach.

To envision a legislative comeback, the outnumbered party looks to the promise of an independent process in the coming makeover of state and congressional district lines that started with the release Thursday of 2020 census data. But the final maps, no matter how fair to the GOP and local communities of interest, may not help the party's position.

There used to be a cliché: the "loyal opposition." The "loyal" half of it is out of fashion. If the concept doesn’t make a comeback, the government will be devoted almost exclusively to the power game without pragmatic compromise. For Long Island, loyal opposition might well be a statewide suburban coalition, shaped by local interests regardless of party.

Former Assemb. Perry B. Duryea, Dr. John C. Baiardi of LIU and...

Former Assemb. Perry B. Duryea, Dr. John C. Baiardi of LIU and Dr. James Alexander, of Fordham and acting director of the Oceanographic School, as the papers are signed for the lease of a property at Fort Pond Bay on June 4, 1969. Credit: Newsday/Ike Eichorn

Party slogans and incantations don’t fix real problems no matter who thinks they rule the roost.

Dominant and dissident factions had both best remember this. People will notice.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.


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