By John Celock
While most attention was focused on the contested presidential primaries on both sides of the aisle, New Yorkers also filled four vacant seats in the state Legislature Tuesday.
In the biggest legislative race of the night, Democratic Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky leads Republican Chris McGrath by 720 votes for the Long Island Senate seat previously held by former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). Kaminsky’s apparent win hands Democrats a majority of the seats in the Senate, but Republicans will still be able to control the chamber through a coalition. A Kaminsky win though does set the stage for a more high pitched battle for control in November.
McGrath has indicated that he will not concede the race to Kaminsky, citing outstanding ballots. The race between Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor elected to the Assembly in 2014, and McGrath kicked off following Skelos’ conviction on federal corruption charges last year. Kaminsky is likely to become the 32nd Democratic senator in the 63 member chamber, but Sen. Simcha Fedler (D-Brooklyn) caucuses with the GOP. In addition, the five member Independent Democratic Conference has formed a coalition with Republicans which will likely secure GOP control for the remainder of the year.
Democrats are positioning themselves to make another play for control of the Senate in November. Republicans have controlled the Senate since the 1930s with the exception of 1965, 2009 and 2010. The last two year period of Democratic control was marked though by a failed coup attempt in June 2009, when a group of Democratic senators abruptly left the party for several weeks in an attempt to deliver control to the Republicans.
In Manhattan, Democrat Alice Cancel was elected to succeed former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D), who was convicted on federal corruption charges last year, in a district spanning Lower Manhattan. Cancel, a long time Democratic district leader, defeated Working Families Party nominee Yuh-Line Niou and Republican Lester Chang in a race dominated by questions about Cancel’s ties to Silver. Cancel was picked for the seat by a Democratic Party committee that included Silver’s wife and long time chief of staff.
In Brooklyn, Democrat Jaime Williams easily defeated Republican Jeffrey Ferretti for the seat vacated late last year by Sen. Roxanne Persaud (D). Persaud, who was elected to the Assembly in 2014, was elected to the Senate last year to fill the seat of former Senate Minority Leader John Sampson (D), who was convicted on federal corruption charges.
On Staten Island, Republican Ron Castorina Jr. was unopposed in his bid to capture the South Shore Assembly seat vacated last year by Councilman Joe Borelli (R). Borelli left the Assembly after being elected to the Council seat vacated by former Council Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio (R), who stepped down to head Catholic Charities on Staten Island.