The tight race for governor has New York Republicans increasingly bullish about legislative gains that could help Republican Lee Zeldin get things done if he pulls off a historic upset next week.
Political experts say conditions are particularly ripe for Republicans in the state Senate, where they need to flip just two seats in the 63-member chamber, with ample opportunities on Long Island, in the Hudson Valley and upstate.
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“They’re going to lose Senate seats,” political consultant Hank Sheinkopf predicted. “Probably in the neighborhood of five seats.”
Even Democratic operatives concede that warning signs are flashing for their party in the state Senate alongside their majorities in the U.S. House, Senate and statewide races across the nation.
“They understand that there is a red wave potential. I think they have been very complacent over the last couple months and are starting to get worried. They are consolidating behind fewer people. The fact that they haven’t widened their net shows they are consolidating, which should not be the case,” a source familiar with Democratic state Senate strategy told The Post.
While bracing for a possible loss of their supermajority, Democrats say they are confident about maintaining a majority in the chamber they flipped from the GOP in a 2018 blue wave that also brought Democrats to power in the U.S. House.
“We have built the largest Senate majority in state history by competing aggressively and intelligently in all corners of the state and this year is no exception. Those with partisan agendas will keep spinning out fan fiction in a vain attempt to undermine our efforts but when the dust settles, our Democratic majority will still be there to steer our state in the right direction,” said state Senate Democrats spokesman Mike Murphy.
Public polling has been virtually non-exist in legislative races this year, but interviews with political operatives, fundraising, 2020 election results and visits by Democratic bigwigs like Hochul and President Biden point to where Republicans are likely to make gains once voting ends Nov. 8.
“The mood of the electorate is the same as the mood of the Republican Party,” Nassau County GOP Chair Joe Cairo claimed following polls highlighting how GOP-friendly topics like rising crime and prices are top of mind for voters following big wins on Long Island last year powered by backlash to criminal justice reforms approved by state lawmakers.
State Sen. John Brooks (D-Nassau) of the 5th District, appears to be among the incumbents most endangered by a possible red wave sweeping Long Island in light of his recent kvetching about a lack of support from Albany Democrats and the fact that ex-President Donald Trump won his newly-drawn district by three points.
Former GOP state Sen. Jack Martins is also targeting state Sen. Anna Kaplan in the 7th Senate District.
The GOP is also eyeing additional opportunities in open races between Republican Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick and Democrat Kenneth Moore to replace former state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Nassau) as well in the 3rd District where Republican Dean Murray and Democrat Farzeen Bham are duking it out in Suffolk.
“You have a lot of moderate Democrats that don’t necessarily vote like city voters, they vote like suburban voters – which they are – so I would say on Long Island, I’m gonna be watching very carefully,” said Dr. Basil Smilkle, a political strategist and former executive director of the state Democratic Party.
Some Democrats, like former state Sen. Monica Martinez, who is running against Republican Wendy Rodriguez in the Suffolk-based 4th District, said she is making sure to highlight her past efforts to hold up the state budget in order to overhaul controversial changes to cash bail laws.
“They’re not going to say she was the only Democrat that stood for changes,” Martinez said of Republicans.
Other Democrats looking to prevail over GOP-friendly political winds include state Sen. Michelle Hinchey (D-Catskills) who is competing against fellow incumbent state Sen. Susan Serino (R-Hudson Valley) in a district overlapping with parts of their previous districts.
Other Democratic incumbents who appear in danger of losing include state Sens. Pete Harckham (D-Westchester), Rachel May (D-Syracuse) and John Mannion (D-Syracuse).
A redistricting process where a special master drew new Senate lines after those approved by Albany Democrats got tossed by the courts as unconstitutional gerrymandering hardly helps party efforts to maintain the supermajority they won in 2020.
“Each of the senate districts got a little bit tougher,” said state Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs. “[But] the Republicans are really beginning to uncork the champagne bottles a little early. Let’s wait to see when the votes come in and we’re going to be fighting to get every vote out we can.”
Democrats remain more confident about their chances in the Assembly where they hold 107 out of 150 seats with new lines approved by Albany Democrats remaining in place this year despite maps for the Senate and Congress getting tossed.
But that does not mean Republicans won’t gain ground in the historically Democrat-dominated chamber, especially if they can further erode their rivals’ ability to compete outside cities amid a national reddening of lesser populated areas as well as winnable races on Staten Island and southern Brooklyn.
While the GOP is more likely to break the Democrats’ supermajority in the Senate and Assembly, party leaders say they are still hoping to do both with the help of a national red wave that could thrust Republicans into power in the governor’s office as well.
“With Lee Zeldin at the top of our ticket, the red wave is going to wash through New York and voters are going to wake up to a new era of common sense that puts law-abiding citizens and taxpayers first,” state Republican Party Chair Nick Langworthy said.