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Eyes on Westchester as special election could impact control of State Senate

ALBANY – Democrats and Republicans are going house by house for votes in a Westchester County state Senate district that is up for grabs Tuesday in a special election.

One upstate senator said it best.

“All eyes will be on Westchester Tuesday,’’ said Sen. Rob Ortt, a North Tonawanda Republican.

Two currently vacant Senate seats will be filled Tuesday. In the Bronx, the Democratic candidate is a certain winner. In Westchester, Shelley Mayer, a Democrat, should be an easy winner given the Democratic leaning of the district and the difficulties Republicans in a blue state like New York face with President Trump as their party leader.

But Senate Republicans – bolstered, in part, by a large campaign bankroll and supporters from real estate to two Walmart heirs – appear to have made a race of it with their candidate, Julie Killian. Both sides dispatched foot soldiers – from staffers to rank-and-file senators – to help their cause. The Senate held a rare noon session start on Monday, and immediately broke so helpers could make their way back down to Westchester.

At stake is the possible control of the state Senate. If the Democrats win, they will have a numerical edge in the 63-member chamber. But one Democrat, Sen. Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, has for several years conferenced with Republicans and he has not definitively stated who he would caucus with if the Democrats win both races Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Felder said the senator had no comment when asked if he supports the Democrat or Republican in the Westchester race.

Asked if Monday could be his last full day in the majority, Ortt laughed. “That’s certainly not my thinking,’’ he said.

Ortt noted Felder could remain in the majority. Further, it takes 38 members to vote for a change in the Senate rules, which explicitly has the Republicans as the controlling force in the Senate. A number scenarios arise. One: if the Democrats win and if Felder joins them and if the GOP invokes the rule of 38, then the matter could end up in court.

Another: “If we win tomorrow that really changes the narrative that it’s fait accompli,’’ Ortt said of chatter that the GOP could soon be on its way out of power in all leadership levels in the Legislature and statewide offices.

The Democratic confidence level was high Monday. “I’m not hung up on when it happens, just that it happens. Whether it’s next week or later down the road, I’m fine with that,’’ said Sen. Leroy Comrie, a Queens Democrat.

The numbers game matters now because of the recent defection from a GOP alliance pact by a group of eight reengage Democrats. The Independent Democratic Conference earlier this month disbanded and rejoined the mainline group of Senate Democrats.

Legislative vacancies disenfranchise residents across New York State

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