June 24th, 2008
As the Republicans in the State Senate selected Dean Skelos of Long Island as their new leader, speculation continued about the effects of the resignation yesterday of his predecessor, longtime Majority Leader Joe Bruno. And much of that speculation involved whether New York voters, who have demonstrated some antipathy to the Republican Party of late, would flip the Senate to the Democrats in November — and thereby abruptly demote Skelos to minority leader.
As Gotham Gazette examines this week, the Republicans already held on to the Senate — their one remaining power baser in the state — by the thinnest of threads. In fact many see that tenuous control as having helped convince the 79-year-old Bruno to resign.
“Perhaps Senator Bruno has seen which way the wind is blowing, and realizes he probably won’t be majority leader next January,” said Buffalo Pundit. Now, the blog continued, “there’ll be a new person with the other two in the room who make all the decisions in the excuse for representative democracy that is the State of New York.”
“The personal reasons sound convincing in this case,” said Ballot Box, “but I can’t help but wonder whether the decision not to run again made by 79-year-old Joe Bruno Ö is a sign he believes his party is about to lose its decades-old hold on the chamber.”
And if the task of keeping the Senate Republican seemed tough before, most agreed Bruno’s departure would make it even harder. Before “we could smell the New York State Senate turning blue in November. Now, we can taste it,” said the Albany Project.
The list of vulnerable seats expanded, as attention focused on older Republican members of the State Senate. The Daily Politics noted, “Almost half of 32 [GOP] senators will be at least 65 come November” and wondered whether some of those politicians “might follow Bruno out the door. More open seats means more competitive races — if the Republicans can even find candidates to run in a state where their numbers have dropped steadily. That would only hasten what many see as an inevitable Democratic takeover of the chamber.”
The Albany Project cited Caesar Trunzo, Kenneth LaValle, Owen Johnson, Serphin Maltese, Hugh Farley and Dale Volker as possible retirees. Farley and Maltese, at least, quickly denied they had any such plans. And Brooklyn Republican Sen. Marty Golden disputed reports of GOP distress.
“We will go on, he told the Daily Politics. “There will be no early retirements as many people are thinking. I’m sure the Democratic spin will be different, but nothing has changed.”
Bruno’s retirement puts another Republican seat in play: his own. Democrat Brian Premo had already planned to run. On the GOP side, Assemblymember Roy McDonald seemed to be Bruno’s preferred replacement for his Senate seat, although Rensselaer County Executive Kathleen Jimino had also expressed interest, the Albany Times Union reported.
As giddy as Democrats may be in the wake of some recent upsets, Bruno’s home turf around Albany remains tough territory for them, according to
Rochester Turning. “Republicans have a 20,000 registered voter advantage over Democrats” in the area, the blog said. On the other hand, it continued, the district “is almost entirely in the 20th Congressional District where Kirsten Gillibrand unseated Republican John Sweeney in 2006 with 53 percent. And earlier this year, Darrel Aubertine won the 48th Senate District, which has an even larger Republican enrollment advantage of 30,000, also with 53 percent.”
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