Republicans are declaring victory in their efforts to maintain their majority in the New York State Senate, which means Mayor Bill de Blasio could be in for another testy fight over who will control New York City schools.
The Republican-controlled Senate is the main roadblock in de Blasio’s effort to secure long-term mayoral control, and some observers thought a strong Democratic showing at the polls might alter that chamber’s balance of power.
But Tuesday’s election results signal more of the same for the legislature’s education policy dynamics, and likely means that Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan — a de Blasio foe — will retain his important position in Albany.
Republican incumbents, who staved off several Democratic challenges Tuesday night, claimed victory in a statement.
“Tonight, we have grown our majority in the New York State Senate,” read the statement from Senator Flanagan’s office.
Last year, Flanagan sparred with de Blasio over who would control the nation’s largest school system. He accused de Blasio of a “a disturbing lack of personal knowledge about city schools” and helped limit the mayor to a one-year extension of control for the second year in a row. The Senate has also been friendly to charter schools, helping to raise the city’s charter school cap and push for increases in charter school funding.
Tuesday’s results earned praise from StudentsFirstNY, an education advocacy organization that opposes de Blasio.
“New Yorkers defied expectations by rejecting a State Senate that would have turned its back on the needs of all public school students across the state,” said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis.” We congratulate Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan for his impressive stewardship.”
Still, the election results have not yet been finalized since there are outstanding absentee ballots to be counted, said Tom Connolly, spokesperson for the New York State Board of Elections.
On Wednesday morning, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats told the Wall Street Journal that Republicans had taken a “premature victory lap” and Democrats in the Senate could still outnumber Republicans after the dust settles. Senate Democrats did not respond to Chalkbeat’s request for comment.
The GOP expects to end up with at least 31 members in the Senate, and Democrat Simcha Felder, who typically votes with the Republican conference, would give Republicans the 32 seats they need for a majority.
They are counting on a win for Senator Carl Marcellino, the Senate Education Committee chairman, who is locked in a close race with Democrat James Gaughran. The New York State School Boards Association and news outlets say it appears Marcellino has secured enough votes to win, but Connolly said the race is still too close to call and the results may not be certified for roughly two weeks.
Meanwhile, the GOP may pick up another seat in a tight race between Democrat John Brooks and Republican Michael Venditto, who were separated by only 33 votes on Wednesday afternoon.
As long as Republicans hold the Senate, New York state’s education policy is unlikely to change dramatically, said David Albert, spokesman for the New York State School Boards Association.
“If the Republicans retain control of the Senate, then I would say that I don’t necessarily know that there will be significant change,” he said. But the election of Donald Trump, he added, could mean bigger shifts ahead.