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The Real Winners in Legislative Elections: Incumbents

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The New York State Capitol in Albany.

The vast majority of incumbent state legislators were re-elected Tuesday night, upholding a decades-long Albany tradition.

Bill Mahoney, with the New York Public Interest Research Group, says only three to six faces will change out of 213 Senators and Assembly members come January. He says the system favors sitting lawmakers, who are able to design their own districts through party-based control of redistricting. They also typically receive far more campaign donations than their challengers. 

Mahoney says in the past 30 years just 53 to 56 incumbents have been voted out of office, and he says that’s bad for democracy. 

“I don’t think anybody would look at the state legislature and its track record over the past few years and decide that only a couple percentage points of the people who are serving in Albany are not up to the task,” Mahoney said.

The advantages of controlling redistricting and the ability to raise more money still might not save GOP control of the State Senate, though. Republicans held a narrow one seat margin, and may lose as many as two incumbent senators to the Democrats. Republicans also lost one open seat and are fighting to win another newly created Senate seat as absentee ballots are counted.

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