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Incoming Senate leader juggling many tasks

ALBANY — The next leader of New York’s Senate said Thursday she has had no conversations with any Senate Republicans about joining the Democratic Party after this week's elections overwhelmingly ousted Republicans from control of the 63-member chamber.

“So far, I have so many Democrats," Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said of the 39 senators she will suddenly have when a new legislative session begins in January.

The big pickup in seats by the Democrats, who have 31 members in their party conference now, has led to some speculation that moderate Senate Republicans, especially those in districts with Democratic enrollment edges, might switch party alliances in order to boost their chances of re-election in two years.

“So far, no, but I’d be happy to talk to anybody," Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester County Democrat, said of Senate Republicans.

Indeed, with such a large incoming majority conference, the next Senate majority leader doesn’t need any more members to get the kinds of initiatives passed in the coming session that Democrats say they will be pushing.

Stewart-Cousins said the current Senate majority leader, Long Island’s John Flanagan, did call her and offer to partner in the transition from GOP to Democratic control. Such transition efforts can be complicated, given the hundreds of staff members who will be affected, switching of offices at the Capitol and nearby Legislative Office Building and committee assignments that need to be made before session starts.

The Democratic leader said she has also not had any specific requests by her fellow Democrats for committee assignments. Asked if people like Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat and ranker on the powerful Senate Finance Committee, will become committee chairs, Stewart-Cousins said decisions have yet to be made.

But she said “it’s reasonable” to assume that Democrats who are on key committees and are doing their jobs well could be expected to rise to committee chair positions.

Despite the overwhelming numbers of the new Democratic conference that will come from New York City and its suburbs, Stewart-Cousins stressed that there will be no geographic concentration of interests “to the detriment of anywhere else." She gave a particular notice to the Buffalo area, which will go for from five senators in the majority with the Republicans to one in the majority with the Democrats. “I’m up there often and will remain interested and focused and helpful to Buffalo," she said.

This is often the time of year when rumors start about a possible end-of-year special session by the two legislative houses. Stewart-Cousins laughed when asked about such a possibility this year.

“I actually don’t see that happening. First of all, the Republicans don’t have a majority. They didn’t have a majority when they left and they still don’t," she said of the departure of a Long Island Republican that ended up creating an end of session in June where few major items got addressed.

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