Republicans will maintain control of the New York Senate for the remainder of the 2018 legislative session — no matter the outcome of Tuesday’s special elections.
That’s because conservative Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder said Tuesday that he would continue caucusing with the GOP.
Currently, there are 31 Republicans and 30 Democrats, with two empty seats. Even though he’s one of the Democrats, Felder provides the GOP with a reliable 32nd vote.
The two empty seats are being contested Tuesday — in the Bronx and in Westchester.
Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda is expected to handily win the Bronx seat vacated by Ruben Diaz Sr., who was elected to the City Council.
But there’s a spirited race in Westchester’s 37th District, pitting Republican Julie Killian against Democrat Shelley Mayer. The seat was vacated after Democrat George Latimer was elected Westchester County executive last fall.
If Killian defeats Mayer, Republicans will maintain their majority, even without Felder’s vote.
But if Mayer wins, Democrats will have a 32-31 edge on paper — but would only control the chamber if Felder switched back to his own party.
Felder insists he’s staying put with the GOP — at least through June’s end of the legislative session.
“With only 25 days remaining in this year’s legislative session, I believe it is my obligation to prevent an unprecedented and uncertain late session political battle that will only hurt my constituents and New Yorkers.
Political gamesmanship must not be allowed to jeopardize the leadership, committee structure and staff of the New York State Senate and push this institution into turmoil. Upheaval and court battles among partisans is not the preferred method of governing,” Felder said in a statement
“Therefore, regardless of which candidates prevail in today’s elections, I will continue to caucus with the Majority Coalition. This issue is best resolved outside of the legislative session and I look forward to revisiting it after session. I have great respect for my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and this institution. I intend to work with all of them in the remaining days of session and move the people’s work forward in an effective and orderly manner.”
There’s a Senate edict that requires a three-fifths vote — or 38 votes in the 63-seat chamber — to change or suspend rules mid-session. That would include who runs the chamber. Republicans were threatening to invoke the rule — if Felder flipped to the Democrats — to remain in charge.
Democrats argued the rule is invalid if the make-up of the Senate changes, and the issue would have likely ended up in court.
Felder’s decision to stick with the GOP makes the issue moot.
Every state lawmaker’s seat will be up for grabs this fall.
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