In Albany, It Could be Gridlock Again or Harmony

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo may face rough sledding in Albany from his first days there.

    Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo may face rough sledding in Albany from his first days there.

    The capital of the state gets a generous helping of snow each winter. But that’s not the kind of sledding I’m talking about.  The governor-elect may have a tough time getting his program passed in a State Senate if the Republicans regain control.

    With the results still up in the air in three districts, it appears the Republicans are ahead. Indeed, Governor David Paterson has just said he expects the GOP to take control of the Senate. 

    What could that mean? There are two possible scenarios. Albany could go back to total gridlock with a Democratic Governor and a Democratic Assembly, but a Republican Senate that could stand in the way of legislation favored by Cuomo.

    In the second scenario, Cuomo and the Republican leader, Dean Skelos of Long Island, will find a way to live together and work together. Skelos said he had talked to the new governor. “I said our messages were very similar about taxes, spending and private sector jobs and there’s no reason we can’t work together towards those objectives.”

    Blair Horner of the watchdog group Common Cause believes the Senate situation is still wide open. Three tight races are still to be decided: On Long Island, Democratic Senator Craig Johnson v. Republican Jack Martins; in Westchester, Democrat Suzi Oppenheimer v. Bob Cohen; in Buffalo, Democratic Senator Antoine Thompson v. Mark Grisanti.

    In two of these contests, the Democrats so far are trailing their Republican opponents but the final outcomes are still in doubt.

    Blair Horner says the fact that paper ballots are being used complicates the situation. “If there are recounts,” Horner told me, “some or all of these races can wind up in the courts. The process could drag on for weeks or months. Paper ballot counting is slow.

    “My guess is we won’t know the results until Thanksgiving or later.”     

    From a political standpoint, there’s a crucial matter at stake here. With the results of the 2010 census tabulated, there is a framework for re-districting the state, drawing new lines for political districts. Both houses of the Legislature will be involved in this process and, if the political complexion is mixed, there will be a great need for compromise in the way the legislative lines are re-drawn.

    That could be a good thing or a bad thing. If the political bosses have their way, they might be tempted to parcel up the legislative districts so both sides get to keep the legislative lines they want. That’s the kind of compromise that might not benefit the people. On the other hand, if both sides share the power to re-draw the districts, that also could create a situation where each party watches the other and the possibility of political mischief is minimized.

    Who knows? We seem to have the potential now for more chaos in Albany. Or -- if the two leaders forge a bipartisan alliance for the immediate future -- the state might be on the road to some sensible actions to solve our grievous problems.

    The uncertainty over the Senate could bring out the best or worst in us.