While the outcome of three State Senate races remains up in the air and a final count is still weeks away, what party will control New York’s Senate chamber is still a mystery.
No winners have been declared in State Senate races in Westchester, Buffalo and Long Island, where thousands of absentee ballots still need to be counted. Currently, Republicans have control of 30 seats while Democrats have 29 seats in their column.
Although both parties continued to express optimism that when all of the votes are tallied these seats will end up in their column, Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo created a stir in Puerto Rico on Monday, November 8, when he addressed reporters about the possibility of a 31-31 tie.
“I don’t want to get into the legal technicalities of it, but the Lieutenant Governor would be a tiebreaking vote in leadership selection if it came to that,” Cuomo told reporters. “But, let’s count the vote first. Let’s find out who won first and then figure out strategy.”
However, Republican leaders quickly shot back that they believe that State Constitution does not give the Lieutenant Governor the ability to cast a tiebreaking vote to determine what party is in the majority.
“Senate Republicans are very confident that when all the paper ballots are counted, Republicans will be in the majority with 32, if not 33, seats in the Senate, making the role of the Lieutenant Governor on deciding leadership questions a moot point,” said Senate Republican spokesperson Mark Hansen. “The State Constitution makes it clear that the Lieutenant Governor’s authority to cast a vote in the Senate only applies to settling tie votes on procedural matters – not on substantive matters, such as legislation or resolutions to elect leadership.”
In the three races still up for grabs, Republicans currently hold slim leads in the races between Jack Martins and Craig Johnson on Long Island, and Mark Grisanti versus Antoine Thompson in Buffalo. The Democrats lead in the Westchester race with Suzi Oppenheimer holding a slight edge over Republican Bob Cohen.
If the Democrats can flip one of the seats where Republicans hold a lead, the count would be 31-31, and Democratic leaders agree with Cuomo’s assessment about breaking the tie.
“Just as we support the Governor-elect’s agenda for a new New York, we agree with his understanding of the state constitution and legislative procedure,” said Austin Shafran, a spokesperson for the Senate Democrats.