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McKinstry: New York State Senate on pins and needles over recounts

Members of the New York State Senate speak

Members of the New York State Senate speak in Albany. (June 24, 2009) Credit: AP

Meet the most powerful lawmakers in Albany.

The Independent Democratic Conference of the New York State Senate likely holds the balance of power in its hands.

At least at the moment.

With a 33-30 split in the Democrats’ favor, these four “Independents” -- Sens. Jeffrey Klein of the Bronx and Westchester, David Carlucci of Rockland County, Diane Savino of Staten Island and David Valesky of Syracuse -- hold a lot of juice and Klein, the group’s leader, reportedly has been in talks with Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican from Rockville Centre.

After redistricting earlier this year, the number of seats in the State Senate grew by one to 63.

A new district created in the Albany area to give Republicans a better chance of maintaining control of the Senate hasn’t yet played out in their favor. There, a Democrat holds the lead in a close race. But Republicans hope to eke out a win in the new 46th State Senate District, where the two candidates -– incumbent Republican Assemb. George Amedore and Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk -- have both declared victory. Tkaczyk has an 139-vote lead, though there are still more than 8,000 absentee votes to be counted. Republicans like their chances.

A surprise for Republicans was in the 41st District, which includes parts of Dutchess and Putnam counties, where Republican Sen. Steve Saland remains behind Democrat Terry Gipson by more than 1,600 votes, though Saland has yet to concede.

Republicans can cite Saland’s vote for same-sex marriage in 2011, and a third candidate, Conservative Neil Di Carlo, who garnered 16,000 votes in the race.

In Nassau, first-term Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) is up in the count over Democratic challenger Daniel Ross, but Democrats are complaining that as many as 7,000 machine votes weren’t scanned, so the final tally isn’t yet known there, either.

Another twist in this high-stakes pursuit of power is Sen.-elect Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn, who has not yet said which party he will caucus with.

If the Independent Democratic Conference does reach an agreement with Republicans, expect some sort of coalition where Republicans and the four “Independents” carve out leadership roles.

But don’t count on any deal just yet. There are a lot of votes to be counted -- and recounted.

And plenty of horse trading to do.