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Dems win majority in New York Senate, but won't control it

Dems win majority in New York Senate, but won't control it
Democrats won special elections to fill two open state Senate seats in New York on Tuesday, giving the party a majority in the legislative chamber for the first time in years.
 
But, in an only-in-New-York twist of fate, Republicans will maintain control of the state Senate, at least through the end of the legislative session scheduled to conclude in June.
 
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Democratic candidates in both races easily bested their GOP rivals on Tuesday.
 
The results mean Democrats will control 32 of 63 seats in the state Senate, giving the party a majority of a legislative chamber that has long been under GOP rule.
 
But in a state with multiple ballot lines and constantly shifting alliances, nothing is so simple. Even after Democrats reunited two warring factions earlier this month, a lone Democratic holdout continues to caucus with the GOP.
 
That holdout is state Sen. Simcha Felder (D), a political sphinx whose alliances have shifted several times during his career. In a statement Tuesday, even before the polls closed, Felder said he would continue to caucus with Republicans — providing them the 32nd vote necessary to control the chamber — for the remainder of the legislative session.
 
"I always try to do what is best for my constituents and New Yorkers," Felder said in the statement. "With only 25 days remaining in this year’s legislative session, I believe it is my obligation to prevent an unprecedented and uncertain late session political battle that will only hurt my constituents and New Yorkers. Political gamesmanship must not be allowed to jeopardize the leadership, committee structure and staff of the New York State Senate and push this institution into turmoil."
 
"Therefore, regardless of which candidates prevail in today’s elections, I will continue to caucus with the Majority Coalition," he went on. "This issue is best resolved outside of the legislative session and I look forward to revisiting it after session."
 
Felder represents one of the rare New York City-based districts that gave President Trump a majority of its votes in 2016. His district, based in Brooklyn, went for Trump by a 53 percent to 45 percent margin. 
 
He has always been elected to office — first the New York City council and then the state Senate — as a Democrat. But Felder, a deeply religious Orthodox Jew, holds some views way out of the Democratic mainstream. He is anti-abortion rights, and though he supported former New York City Councilmember Christine Quinn's bid to become council speaker, he went to the restroom rather than formally cast a vote for Quinn, who is gay.
 
Still, Felder backed former President Obama during his 2008 primary battle against Clinton, one of the few New York officials to do so. And Felder is no closet Republican; he said he has only ever voted for one Republican candidate, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
 
His decision Tuesday left Democrats deeply frustrated. The party, led by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Rep. Joseph Crowley (D), had worked quietly to reunite mainline Democrats with a rump faction of more centrist Democrats who had caucused with the GOP. 
 
An eventual deal between members of the Independent Democratic Conference and mainline Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins left the party just a few seats short of a majority. Tuesday's elections delivered that majority, but Felder's decision to hold out means Democrats will have to fight for one more seat come November.
 
Had Felder rejoined his fellow Democrats, New York would have joined eight other states — Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington — where Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature and the governor's office. 
 
Republicans currently control all three levers of state government, known as a trifecta, in 26 states.
 
New York voters also elected candidates to fill nine vacant state Assembly seats on Tuesday. Four of those seats voted for both Clinton in 2016 and Obama in 2012; two more, one just outside Albany, the other in western Erie County, voted for Obama before flipping to Trump in 2016.