The last couple of elections, we’ve seen a weird parting of ways in New York between the fortunes of Democratic candidates and the fortunes of the Democratic Party.
On the one hand, Dems now control every statewide office. And there’s a fair argument to be made that Republicans only hold their majority in the state Senate because of aggressive gerrymandering.
The Empire state, no surprise here, is about as blue as blue can get. Even parts of New York that were once GOP strongholds — in the North Country and the western counties — have turned purplish.
But set against that record is a drumbeat of corruption stories and disarray within the Democrats’ Senate caucus. This week, state Sen. Shirley Huntley was indicted for allegedly creating a sham non-profit that stole roughly $30,000 in public funds.
Then there’s word that Assembly Democrats may have shelled out $103,000 to cover a settlement for sexual harassment charges leveled against top Brooklyn lawmaker Vito Lopez.
Meanwhile, Gov. Cuomo seems to have largely abandoned his own party’s Senate caucus, winking at the notion that he’s just as happy partnering with Republican leader Dean Skelos.
And no wonder. It’s a mess, with minority leader John Sampson apparently incapable of unifying his fractious members, several of whom side regularly with the GOP.
I also hear a lot of grumbling among progressives, who have begun to look toward smaller, more ideologically comfortable parties, the Working Families and the Greens.
For the time being, the weakness of the Democrats had only one major impact: allowing Republicans to regain control of the Senate, despite demographic and voter-enrollment trends that should, in theory, consign the GOP to the back benches.
That historic flub also allowed Republicans to influence this year’s redistricting process, which means that their gerrymandered advantage in the Senate will continue to shape New York’s politics for years to come.
Otherwise, the relatively strong slate of Democratic candidates — and weak slates on the Republican side — have served to conceal the erosion of the party brand.
But I wonder if the situation that exists now might not create an opening for Republicans to regain some ground statewide.
Moderates like Michael Bloomberg and George Pataki have shown that it’s possible to build winning coalitions, if Democrats are divided and muddled and wounded by scandal.
What do you think? Can Republicans capitalize on weakness across the aisle? Do you see an opening for a Republican gubernatorial candidate after Andrew Cuomo leaves the scene? Comments welcome.