State Legislative Ratings Part 22: New York Senate | Gaughran 2018
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State Legislative Ratings Part 22: New York Senate

Publication: 
Daily Kos
Aug
5
2018

We have reached the end. While there are several other chambers that are competitive that I haven’t covered (ME-House, MN-House, NH-House), they are not going to be getting their own detailed write ups. After this piece, I will do one big wrap up on Friday where I will include a big picture breakdown which will include seat projections for those particular chambers. Otherwise, this write-up of the New York State Senate is the last full write-up I will be doing, part of a series that has now spanned 2.5 months. Republicans hold a surprising 32-31 edge in this chamber, despite it being in a very blue state. This is because of the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of several Democratic Senators who caucused with Republicans to keep the chamber in GOP hands. Governor Cuomo helped to disband that group early this year, but one straggler, Simcha Felder, remained to give Republicans control for a few more months. Democrats are trying to primary the renegades, even those who returned to the fold in April. While those primaries are interesting and important, they are occurring mostly in deep blue seats, and since we only do competitive seats, they will not be mentioned. So, one last time, without further ado, let’s look at the ratings chart:

New York Senate Ratings Chart

Likely D Lean D Tossup Lean R Likely R
8 (D) 3 (R) 40 (R) 55 (R)
9 (D) 5 (R) 60 (R)
39 (R) 6 (R)
50 (R) 7 (R)
41 (R)
42 (R)
43 (R)
58 (R)
Lean D: 8, 9, 39, 50

8th District: John E. Brooks

One of only two Democratically-held seats that are in any kind of danger, SD-8 is located in Hempstead on Long Island. Democrat John E. Brooks won in 2016 by the slimmest of margins, 50.1%-49.9%, knocking off a Republican incumbent in the process. Republicans are running Missepequa Park Mayor Jeffrey Pravato, who seems like a fine candidate, but this will be an uphill battle for Team Red. It’s a D+3 Obama/Clinton seat with a D incumbent in a pro-D midterm. While the margin in 2016 and historical downballot R lean that New York has makes me hesitate slightly, Brooks is still the strong favorite for re-election.

9th District: Todd Kaminsky

The other potentially endangered D seat is in the adjacent SD-9, found in Long Beach. Kaminsky won his 2016 election by a similarly narrow 50-49 margin and he’s out to defend the seat in 2018. He will be facing Republican Francis Becker Jr. and he starts out as the favorite here for a few reasons. First is that 2018 promises to be more favorably nationally for Democrats than 2016 was, but also because of district partisanship, with this being a D+2 seat.

39th District: Open (Larkin)

Republican William Larkin has held this Orange County seat for nearly three decades. The 90 year-old legislator finally called it quits this year, after 2016 was one of his closer calls, winning by just a 53-47 margin. His retirement made SD-39 a top Democratic pickup opportunity and Democrats reeled in State Assemblyman James G. Skoufis as their candidate. Republicans have Stony Point Town Councilman Tom Basile as their candidate, who is fine, but perhaps a cut below who the Democrats have. And given this is an R+1 seat that Democrats came close to winning in 2016 even with a long-time incumbent, the open seat status makes us lean this one towards Team Blue for a pickup.

50th District: Open (DeFrancisco)

Another longtime Republican Senator who is retiring is John DeFrancisco, having held this Onondaga County seat since the early 1990s. DeFrancisco was simply not going to be beaten so long as he kept running. But with him out of the picture, SD-50 also rises to the top of the pickup list. A Clinton/Obama D+3 district, it will be a difficult hold for the Republicans. Bob Antonacci, who ran for State Controller back in 2014, looks to be Team Red’s candidate for this office, while biology teacher John Mannion is going to be the Democrats’ candidate. In terms of candidate quality, the GOP may have the stronger horse, but district partisanship may be too much to overcome here.

Tossup: 3, 5, 6, 7, 41, 42, 43, 58

3rd District: Open (Croci)

The prevailing theme of this chamber is that Republicans are fleeing the chamber and SD-3 is another example. The retirement of Tom Croci means that SD-3 is up for grabs, an EVEN PVI seat in south-central Long Island. Monica Martinez, a Suffolk County legislator, is the Democratic candidate, while State Assemblyman Dean Murray is the GOP favorite. Candidate quality is probably a wash here, so tossup feels right.

5th District: Carl Marcellino

Republican incumbent Carl Marcellino survived 2016 by the skin of his teeth, winning re-election by a point in this Oyster Bay/Glen Cove seat. The man who gave him that run for his money, James Gaughran, is back for another swing. With the national environment worse for the GOP in 2018 than it was in 2016, Marcellino could be in even more trouble than he was last time around. Will this be the year he gets toppled? It’s unclear, but Democrats have a great shot.

6th District: Kemp Hannon

Another Long Island Republican who had a close call in 2016 was Kemp Hannon, who won re-election by an 8 point margin. It’s unclear who he will face this time, as attorney Kevin Thomas and businessman Andrew Grover are both in the race on the Democratic side. Either way, they should be competitive enough to push Hannon, and his margin from 2016 could be swallowed up by the national environment alone, making this a tossup race.

7th District: Elaine Phillips

Our final Long Island district is SD-7, a D+4 seat found in North Hempstead, New York. This seat was open in 2016, with GOPer Elaine Phillips emerging victorious in a very close election, winning by just 2 points, even while Hillary Clinton was beating Donald Trump soundly here. That showed off Phillips’ crossover appeal, but she’s going to need more of it to survive 2018 matched up against Anna Kaplan, a member of the North Hempstead town board. This is a pretty clear tossup race.

41st District: Susan J. Serino

This is a Dutchess County district held by Susan J. Serino, a Republican who beat an incumbent Democrat back in 2014. She increased her margin to 55-45 in 2016, but she will not be as secure in 2018. While still being one of the stronger incumbents in this piece, she happens to be in a D+1 seat that Clinton and Obama won and is facing a competent opponent. That would be Democrat Karen Smythe, who runs her family construction business. I think Serino is a small favorite but it should be a close race, hence the tossup rating.

42nd District: Open (Bonacic)

John Bonacic is another long-time incumbent who was not losing if he ran for re-election. Thankfully for Democrats, he is not running for re-election. This opens up an R+1 seat that spans a handful of counties and puts it in play. The Republican candidate is Ann Rabbitt, a State Assemblywoman with a good name, while the Democratic candidate is likely to be Pramilla Malick, who challenged Bonacic unsuccessfully in 2016. This will be another race to watch in November.

43rd District: Open (Marchione)

Yet another open GOP-held district, SD-43 is an EVEN PVI seat that stretches across Saratoga, Rensselaer, and Columbia Counties. It went to Obama by 8 points before swinging to a narrow Trump victory, establishing itself as a key battleground district. Republicans are running Daphne Jordan, a member of the Halfmoon Town Board. Democrats are running Aaron Gladd, an Army veteran. With both candidates being pretty meh this seat reverts to macro metrics like district partisanship and national environment, which point to a tossup.

58th District: Thomas O’Mara

Our final tossup spans 5 different counties and has an R+3 PVI. By PVI, it is the reddest district in this article. Yet, it is not at all secure for Republicans, with the incumbent O’Mara winning by just 10 points in 2016, creating an opening for Democrats this fall. Michael Laussell, a cattle farmer and Schuyler County Legislator, is running for Team Blue, and he’s a good enough candidate to land this district in the tossup column. While O’Mara is still a slight favorite, he’s in for what should be a good test this fall.

Lean R: 40

40th District: Terrence P. Murphy

This is a D+1 seat located in Putnam and Westchester Counties and it has a sophomore Republican incumbent in Terrence P. Murphy. Democrats have gone after Murphy twice in the last two cycles but have come up short both times, and were not terribly close. Still, the winds of 2018 will be a different beast, and so there is reason to think that they might be in a better position this time around. Peter Harckham, a former Westchester County Legislator, was asked by Governor Cuomo to challenge Murphy, and so he appears to be the favorite for the nomination. This could become more competitive, but Murphy remains a favorite in the general election.

Likely R: 55, 60

55th District: Richard Funke

The first of our two Likely R seats is located in Ontario and Monroe Counties in upstate New York. It’s a D+7 district, which in theory would make it a top Democratic pickup. But the ticket-splitting dynamics of New York don’t make it so. Rich Funke was first elected to the chamber in 2014, doing so by a comfortable margin, and so was the margin of his 2016 re-election. This is going to make him quite formidable to defeat and given the glut of targets, he is nowhere near the top of the list. Still, how blue the district is puts it on the horizon as Jennifer Lunsford, a lawyer and activist, looks to take out Funke in November.

60th District: Christopher Jacobs

This Erie County seat was open in 2016 when Jacobs was elected by a sweeping 59-39 margin, far outpacing the district’s D+3 partisanship that saw it vote for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. That makes Jacobs a good bet to win re-election in 2018, but like with SD-55, I’m not willing to be so sure as to rule out the potential for a flip. Businesswoman Camira El Behairy is the Democrat in the race and she doesn’t seem formidable enough to defeat Jacobs, but you never know, so I’m at least putting it down on the list.

Path to a Democratic Majority

Given that none of the D seats are in serious risk of flipping, the path to a Democratic majority is simply flipping one of the copious number of flip opportunities. Doesn’t get much easier than that.

Bottom Line

This is the most likely Democratic chamber flip in the country. The long standing factors that have kept Republicans historically in control of this chamber, ticket-splitting and old incumbents, both show evidence in subsiding, through special election results and the handful of retirements. Rather than talking about who is going to control the chamber after 2018, we should probably be talking more about how many seats Democrats are going to gain, because it could be a bloodbath for Republicans with how many opportunities there are for Dems. Thus, we rate this chamber as Likely D.

Chamber Rating: Likely D

Estimate if election were held today: D+2 to D+10