2/29/08

Union front-group delivers for labor-state Dems

Democrats and many reformers greeted the day with an almost giddy excitement, following yesterday’s victory by Democratic Assemblymember Darrel Aubertine in an upstate State Senate race. Aubertine’s triumph, in an overwhelmingly GOP district that has not elected a Democrat in any of our lifetimes, trimmed the Republican margin in the State Senate to one seat and had Democrats licking their chops in anticipation of November legislative elections.

Examining the result, the Associated Press said it “carries an ominous overtone for [Senate Majority leader Joe] Bruno and the GOP, who face yielding total control of state government to the Democrats, already in command of the Assembly and the governor’s mansion.”

Certainly both sides realized the stakes were high.

According to the AP, “Each candidate spent more than $1.3 million on the campaign, which barely lasted six weeks, making it the second most expensive Senate election in state history.” That money — almost all of it from the state parties or party leadership — went to negative television ads. At the same time, the Working Families Party mounted an impressive Get Out the Vote drive on Aubertine’s behalf.

“The odds against us were staggering,” state Democratic Party co-chairman Dave Pollak told the Daily News. “It illustrates how the Democratic Party is doing a better job of speaking to the issues and the concerns of working families.” Lobbyist and political strategist Evan Stavisky
called the result “absolutely stunning.” The Democrats’ win in the 48thdistrict, he continued, ” sets the stage for the Senate Dems to make history this year.”

The Albany Project, a blog dedicated to ousting the Senate Republicans, agreed: “Our chances of retaking the state Senate just went from ‘possible to ‘dead freakin’ certain.’” Relishing he possibility of playing tit for tat with what it called “Bruno’s aging crew,” the blog’s Phillip Anderson speculated many GOP senators might retire: “They’ve relished sticking it to Senate Dems for decades and they certainly don’t want to deal with the indignity of having to fire staff… or beg for office supplies. Besides, Florida is nice.”

If party control does shift, Down With Tyranny noted, it will happen ” in time for the 2010 redistricting session, a session that is likely to get rid of one red congressional district altogether … and shift the boundaries of the Brooklyn/Staten Island district currently held by Bush rubber stamp Vito Fossella. That will leave the erratic Peter King in an increasingly blue Long Island district as the sole New York Republican in Washington.”

NY13 Blog, which wants to end Fosella’s congressional career, said the result “can’t be promising” for the one Republican member of the city’s congressional delegation. “Once again a strong ground operation has helped flip a formerly strong Republican seat,” the blog explained. “New Yorkers are leaving the Republican candidates they once supported in favor of change promised by Democrats.

Politics on the Hudson raised a number of questions: “Will Joe Bruno stay on as Senate majority leader?… Will Gov. Spitzer and Democrats look to flip a Republican senator—giving them an even number in the chamber…. Will upstate be hurt, as Republicans contend, if Democrats control the Assembly, Senate and governor’s office with all downstate leaders? Will Senate Republicans, especially many of their elderly members, retire rather than face a tough re-election battle this fall? And will the Republican-controlled Senate, already at gridlock with Spitzer, have any chance of agreeing on policy measures and getting a budget approved by the April 1 deadline?”

However this plays out, change is in the air, according to Daily Gotham. Democrats have hold on to their existing seat as they seek to pick up some Republican ones. If that happens, it said, “Bruno will be pushed aside into insignificance and Albany will take one more step out of the dysfunction that Pataki, Shelly Silver and Joe Bruno had so perfected. Pataki’s gone. Bruno is on notice. Even Silver has a challenge from Paul Newell. Reform moves forward, slowly, but surely.”

One Democrat who did not gloat was Gov. Eliot Spitzer who has warred with Bruno and made no secret of his desire for a Democratic majority in the Senate. He was (surprisingly?) gracious in victory, according to the Daily Politics. “The only thing I’d say is the election was yesterday. Today we have work to do,” he said. When pressed on whether he had anything to say on the election itself, Spitzer reportedly praised both Aubertine and the GOP candidate as Will Barclay as “good individuals.”

(gothamgazette.com)

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