Change is coming for both parties in the New York state Senate.
Democratic state Sens. Todd Kaminsky, Diane Savino and James Gaughran have all announced they are not running for reelection. Another Democrat, Alessandra Biaggi, is running for Congress.
A few days ago, another Long Island Democrat, Sen. John Brooks, also announced his retirement and then reversed his decision.
The Democrats’ numbers just about echo those on the Republican side of the ledger, with Sens. Phil Boyle, Patty Ritchie and Fred Akshar all having announced they are not running for reelection. Additionally, there is a primary that will pit Jim Tedisco against Daphne Jordan in the Capital Region due to new maps.
Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris, who chairs the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, told Capital Tonight that the Senate Democrats are used to fighting and 2022 will be no exception.
Even so, he admits it’s going to be an especially challenging year with the party of the president historically doing poorly in the midterms.
“We saw it in 2014 and I think we can expect it to be a fight in 2022. But that being said, we have fought through so much as Senate Democrats in New York, and our political operation is second to none, which is why we have the largest majority the state has ever had,” he said
When Gianaris says “we have fought through so much," he is referring to several years in which Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a group of breakaway Democrats called the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) enabled Republicans to keep control of the state's upper house.
But in 2018 and 2020, Democrats made the election a referendum on then President Trump, and gained a supermajority in the Senate, in spite of lines being drawn in 2012 by Republicans.
“Perhaps the worst gerrymander in the country,” Gianaris said of those lines. “This (new redistricting) process has already yielded better lines than what we had, just by virtue that they couldn’t be any worse.”
Still, this year is going to tough. With high gas prices, inflation and current President Joe Biden’s poll numbers underwater, as well as Republicans picking up some major wins on Long Island in 2021, the roadmap for Democrats, even in blue New York, looks less optimistic than it’s been in a long time.
When asked if he would be focusing on protecting incumbents or picking up seats, Gianaris said both.
“What came out of the [redistricting] process for us was two majority-minority districts on Long Island that are heavily Democratic by performance, so we think we will have pick-up opportunities as well. But of course, we will defend the seats we have,” he said.
According to a spokesman for the Senate Democrats, the special master’s final maps included 39 safe Democratic seats.
Even so, Gianaris understands why many Democrats are very unhappy with the redistricting process.
“They should be unhappy. The courts decided to take over this process late in the game. We have now a bifurcated primary election season. We believe what we did was within constitutional norms, but the courts decided otherwise,” he said. “I don’t think anybody expected them to decide that we didn’t have the power to draws the lines at all, which is what the constitution specifically provides.”