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Why Nov. 4 matters

With no presidential election and neither U.S. senator from New York on the ballot, some voters statewide might feel little motivation to go to the polls Nov. 4. But the temptation to be a no-show should be resisted.

Make no mistake, how New Yorkers cast their ballots next week could shape politics and governance in Albany for at least the next several years.

The biggest battle, polls suggest, is for control of the state Senate. The upper hand in the closely divided, 63-seat Senate has flipped every two years since 2008, when Republicans lost their majority. In 2012, the GOP effectively regained control when a group of four independent Democrats allied with them.

Then in June, the Independent Democratic Conference decided to realign with the Democrats, a reconciliation that came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached a deal with liberals including the Working Families Party and agreed to support the Democrats’ effort to regain control of the Senate.

But some think the governor—who has often found common ground with Senate Republicans—would not mind if the liberals fell short of their goal.

Indeed, recent polls suggest the Democrats may be hard-pressed to win the seats necessary to control the Senate. Among the closely watched races, Republican Rich Funke has a big lead over incumbent Sen. Ted O’Brien, according to a Siena Research Institute poll conducted earlier this month.

Another Siena poll, conducted in June, suggested that a slight majority of voters statewide favored a Republican-IDC partnership to control the Senate. Only 22 percent wanted the Democrats alone to gain control; even fewer—16 percent—preferred a Senate run by the Republicans, however.

The battle for the Senate, of course, will be decided at the district level, where the big picture may not be foremost in voters’ minds. But whether Albany remains a two-party town or solely the domain of Democrats—who have a lock on the Assembly—could greatly influence the direction state government takes after Nov. 4.

True, Mr. Cuomo’s re-election is not guaranteed. All signs point that way, though, and a victory by Republican challenger Rob Astorino would be a stunning upset.

So, much rides on how the Senate goes in this election.

10/31/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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