New York is often seen as a liberal bastion and home base for resistance, but the state, which voted Hillary Clinton by more than 20 percentage points, has a state Senate controlled by Republicans who have obstructed efforts to take progressive action for decades adopted.
New York has struggled unsuccessfully with California for the title of the most progressive state, and this is mainly due to the Republican-controlled Senate. During the tenure of Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo, the state legislature has passed same-sex marriage and some of the most stringent arms control laws in the country, as well as paid family leave and free lessons for some state university students. Despite these liberal achievements, some, like main contender Cynthia Nixon, believe that Cuomo has tacitly supported Republican State Senate control since his election in 2010.
The Republicans had a majority in the Senate since the 1970s, with a brief interregnum in 2009 and 2010 when the Democrats briefly gained the majority. However, this grip on power is getting weaker and weaker. In terms of numbers, Democrats have a 32 to 31 majority, but a rogue Democrat makes a good majority with the Republicans.
State Sen. Simcha Felder, who has made a name for himself by unsuccessfully fighting the scourge of pigeon overpopulation in the New York City Council, is Democrat by name. Since joining the Senate in 2013, Felder has worked with the Republicans, believing that he is the majority contributor to his priorities – the deregulation of Yeshiva schools in his predominantly Orthodox Jewish quarter. He did not say if he would return to the Democracy Conference if she would take over the majority in November.
Felder is not the only democrat who has blocked a democratic majority. For seven years, a group of renegade Democrats calling themselves the Independent Democratic Conference separated from the Democrats. The more socially conservative IDC often agreed with the Republicans by blocking progressive measures that passed the Democratic majority assembly, such as turning New York into a sanctuary.
New York cuomo critics suggest that he allowed the Republican-IDC power split because it allowed him to push his priorities through the legislature, while he apologized for why other progressive measures he allegedly supported did not would be passed.
"You can not say that you are a champion of marriage equality, and you are able to do so with your unique leadership and your ability to cast votes, but not everything else," said Nomiki Konst, an investigative reporter for The Young Turks and a progressive activist, about Cuomo's behavior towards the IDC. Konst is a supporter of Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo's main challenger.
In April, the IDC reconciled with the Democratic Conference in return for the Governor's and Senate's support to IDC members in the main election. However, several insurgent candidates are conducting grass-roots campaigns against former members, including former IDC leader Jeff Klein. Klein was charged with sexual misconduct by a former employee.
While former IDC members have cause for concern when they lose their primaries, their seats will almost certainly remain in democratic hands.
The Democratic Party of the State is more concerned about targeting vulnerable Republican seats, especially on Long Island. Long Island has been a Republican stronghold in the State Senate for decades, but there are several Republican districts that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. One such district is that of Senator Elaine Phillips, who challenges Anna Kaplan. Kaplan was one of two Democrats in New York who were supported by former President Barack Obama in his first round of interim memoranda.
State Senator Michael Gianaris, chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, said that Democrats are seeking to capture Republican seats in suburban areas, such as the districts surrounding New York City. He was confident that the predicted "blue wave" that could lead Democrats into the hands of the House of Representatives on a national level could also help New York State Senate Democrats.
"When you look around in suburbs, you see the blue wave the most," Gianaris said, referring to the recent victory of the New York Democrats. In 2017, Democrat Christine Pellegrino won a special election in a long-standing Republican seat on Long Island. Later that year, the Democrats took control of county leadership positions in the counties of Nassau and Westchester, changing control of the counties from red to blue.
"Unlike the US Senate map, our map is very beneficial to us," said Gianaris. "We only have one seat to defend … and [Republicans] have about a dozen on their side, and we just have to pick one up. "
If the Democrats take control of the Senate, both Houses of the Legislature will set progressive priorities. A law to implement the nationwide Medicare-for-All has passed the Assembly in recent years, but failed in the Senate. The Reproductive Health Law – which would codify abortion rights into state law – has also been obstructed by Senate Republicans for years. If the Democrats take the majority, both bills will most likely happen. A gender-specific prohibition of discrimination would probably also be accepted.
New York would probably also pose as a refuge for undocumented immigrants and pass the New York DREAM Act for DACA recipients in that state.
Cuomo has been charged with failing to adopt measures to reform the criminal justice system and to reform electoral law, although he has repeatedly included these issues as priorities in the states' addressees. If the Democrats were to gain full control of the legislature, they would likely pass measures that would shorten the time between arrest and trial, which would be important for defendants who can not afford bail. Gianaris is also a sponsor of the Bail Elimination Act in the State Senate, which would end the use of the cash deposit.
All these issues are progressive milestones and would make New York even more of a scapegoat for national Republicans who lament the government through liberals.
"It gives us the opportunity to be a true leader when it comes to tackling the Washington horror show, and we see that California is doing good things in this regard because they have a democratic triumcta," said Gianaris Both houses of the California Legislature and the executive are controlled by Democrats. "They are many steps ahead of us because they had the opportunity to pass laws we can not enforce because of the status of the Senate."
Activists see this liberal vision of New York as a leader of the East Coast as achievable.
"I see no reason why they should not team up under the guidance of Andrea Stewart cousins to push the most advanced laws," Konst said, referring to the leader of the Democratic conference. If the Democrats win the majority, they will be the first black woman to serve as the majority leader of the state senate.
Gianaris seemed confident that the Democrats would be able to achieve their goals, regardless of whether Cuomo or Nixon were in office, as both candidates are "on a progressive agenda," adding that he would hope "That they all do justice to this, I say."
Whether fields would return to the Democratic Group is still an open question.
"I would hope that we put him in the position where it is an easy decision because we are clearly in the majority," said Gianaris. "But I do not want to be in the position where we could be held hostage by people like Simcha Felder because I'd rather have a solid and progressive majority."