ALBANY - Democrats in the state Senate, buoyed by the results in Tuesday's special election — including a decisive win in Westchester County — said they remain confident about their chances to gain control of the chamber in the November elections.
Their chest thumping came as state Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, told the Saratoga County GOP Committee on Wednesday night that she would step down at the end of the year and will not seek another term.
Marchione was elected to the state Senate in 2012 and previously served as Saratoga County clerk and Halfmoon town supervisor. Her abrupt exit will set off a scramble by Republicans to find a new candidate for the Senate district that includes Columbia and parts of Saratoga, Rensselaer and Washington counties.
It was not immediately clear what prompted Marchione's departure or whether the battle for control of the Senate was a factor in her decision.
Sen. Mike Gianaris, who oversees the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, issued a Tweet Wednesday morning with an image from the movie about the doomed Andrea Gail fishing vessel as it climbed a towering wave on its way to sinking in the North Atlantic during the Perfect Storm of 1991.
"Great pic of Senate Republicans from last night," he wrote in the Tweet.
Gianaris later predicted that Tuesday's enthusiasm will translate to a November turnout by Democrats that could be comparable to a presidential election year. In 2008 and 2012, the Democrats were able to ride presidential turnout to a numerical majority in the state Senate.
Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif fired back, maintaining that the GOP can combat national trends with good candidates. "Our incumbents are well known, well liked and have a record of delivering for their constituents," he said.
Republicans are downplaying the significance of Tuesday and said that they've weathered political waves in the past to hold the Senate chamber.
Still, the Democrats said a 15-point victory in the contentious Westchester Senate race, narrow defeats in Capital Region GOP strongholds and an 18-point upset win in a Long Island Assembly race are evidence of their momentum, and a new political calculus that puts suburban voters in their camp.
Democratic consultant Bruce Gyory said the special elections continued a national trend from 2017 of suburban voters moving away from Republicans. While Republican voters still support their candidates, he said the past 16 months have indicated Democratic voters are more enthusiastic and independents aren't embracing Republicans on the ballot. In addition to liberal activists, he believes the movement is being driven by moderate and college-educated women in the suburbs turned off by the Republican brand led by President Donald Trump.
"It's way too early to count the Republicans out in the state Senate, but there is something in the political water of suburban districts and that is where the future control of the state Senate will be decided," Gyory said.
Even Tuesday's results in the Capital Region, where Republicans held on to two Assembly seats by less than 600 votes combined, indicates a trend in favor of the Democrats. "If you take a district that you normally lose by double digits and turn it into a photo finish that's a major accomplishment, even if you lose," Gyory said.
Democratic sights are now set on the Hudson Valley and Long Island, where they have an enrollment edge in Republican-controlled districts.
A main target is the 6th Senate District, which includes portions of Nassau and Suffolk counties, and almost slipped away from Republicans in 2016, when incumbent Carl Marcellino held on by one point. The district includes a portion of the 10th Assembly District, which was held by Republicans for more than three decades and won handily by the Democrats on Tuesday.
Democrat Jim Gaughran, who took Marcellino to the brink two years ago, is running again.
In the Hudson Valley, Democrats will likely compete in a handful of seats, but Gyory believes their focus should be on replacing William Larkin, who represents parts of Rockland, Orange and Ulster counties. Democrats have about a 14,000 voter-enrollment edge over Republicans, but Larkin has beaten back spirited challenges in the past, including two years ago when he won by more than 17,000 votes.
The map of potential Democratic challenges could also shift if Republican incumbents choose not to run, which has been happening with a number of Republicans in Congress. "If you have surprise retirements that could change the calculation," Gyory said