WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
New York Republicans are a step closer to getting a lock on the State Senate majority. Over the weekend, a judicially supervised recount gave a slim margin of victory to a GOP challenger from Long Island, giving Republicans a 32-30 edge in the upper house come January.
Republican challenger Jack Martins bested incumbent Democrat Sen. Craig Johnson in the 7th Senate District in Nassau County by just 451 votes. Johnson's request for a full recount of all of the 80,000 votes was rejected by the judge on the recount. Johnson is appealing that decision today.
If that recount withstands Democratic court challenges, Republicans will have the slim two-seat margin that Democrats held for the last two years.
Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College, says Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos would have to really enforce GOP discipline, because just as Democrats faced, Republicans would always "be just one defection away" from legislative chaos.
"The conventional wisdom now is a Republican Senate helps Andrew Cuomo," says Muzzio. Muzzio says that Cuomo's pledged cost-cutting and "no news taxes" austerity could find friends across the aisle in the upper house.
"Clearly if you look at Republican rhetoric, they are more in tune with what Cuomo's is saying than what Speaker Shelly Silver and the more liberal downstate Democrats are saying," Muzzio says.
If by some chance Johnson ultimately prevails, that would set the stage for a 31-31 split in the Senate. Democrats argue that under that scenario, the Democratic Lieutenant Governor, who presides over the body as Senate President, would be able to break the tie to determine the Senate's leadership. That would certainly lead to another court challenge, this time by Republicans.