The 2012 Elections are over, the barrage of commercials airing all the dirty laundry uncovered (or manufactured) by both sides of the aisle against their opponents have finally ceased (thank goodness), and now we begin to reflect on what’s next and what we can learn from this election.
Nationally, let’s face it, it was NOT just the economy stupid this go round. The Presidential election wasn’t JUST an economic referendum. In an election year with unemployment hovering at 8 percent and millions of Americans deeply concerned about their future and the rapidly increasing federal debt, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney built his entire campaign around the idea that the only question for voters was “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” The goal was to turn the entire election into a straight referendum on Obama’s handling of the still struggling economy. Bottom line: It didn’t work. Almost 6 in 10 voters said the economy was the top issue for them and among that group Romney won 51 percent of the vote 47 percent for Obama. And yet Romney lost — and lost pretty convincingly. Why? Obama turned the race effectively into a choice between someone who voters thought understood them and their concerns and someone who didn’t. One in five voters said that a candidate who “cares about people like me” was a critical piece of their decision; Obama won them 82 percent to 17 percent.
And it wasn’t just the presidency that they lost. At the beginning of the year, with Democrats forced to defend 23 Senate seats while Republicans defended just 10, GOP leaders were relatively confident that they would reclaim Senate control and oust Harry Reid as majority leader. It was an historic opportunity. Instead, they lost two seats. They lost five seats in the House as well.
In other signs of a changing America, voters in Maine and Maryland approved measures legalizing gay marriage. In Washington, a measure to legalize gay marriage may also be approved once final votes are counted. In Minnesota, voters rejected a measure that would ban gay marriage. In Wisconsin, voters elected the nation’s first openly gay person to the Senate. And in Colorado and Washington, voters easily approved the recreational use of marijuana. Times they are a-changin.
Now, here in NY, the big post-election scuttlebutt is who exactly will be in control of the NY State Senate, and therefore control the outcome of several major public-policy issues: the current Senate Republican majority has helped Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, restrict the growth of property taxes and rein in state spending, and has prevented him from raising the minimum wage. Republicans currently hold 33 of the 62 seats in the Senate. The chamber will expand to 63 seats next year as part of a redistricting plan. During the campaign this fall, both parties focused their attention on races in several districts, from Queens to Rochester, that are politically moderate. Two of the most competitive races were in areas hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, disrupting carefully laid campaign plans by both parties.
In the most closely watched race in New York City, State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., a Democrat, fended off a strong challenge from a Republican city councilman, Eric A. Ulrich, in Queens. In Westchester County, where many residents remain even today without power because of the storm, Democrats also retained the seat held by Senator Suzi Oppenheimer, who is retiring. Assemblyman George S. Latimer, a Democrat, defeated Bob Cohen, a Republican businessman, to win that district.
And Democrats believe they have also picked up as many as four seats to give them the majority in the Senate starting in 2013. They have definitely seized one seat in the Rochester area, where Ted O’Brien, a Monroe County legislator, defeated Assemblyman Sean T. Hanna, a Republican, in a race to succeed Senator James S. Alesi, a Republican who decided not to seek re-election. In the Mohawk and Hudson Valleys, a Democratic candidate, Cecilia F. Tkaczyk, is leading her Republican opponent, Assemblyman George A. Amedore Jr., by about 140 votes after all precincts have reported, in this newly-created district. Absentee ballots will likely determine the winner of that race. In Brooklyn, Simcha Felder, a former council member, defeated Senator David Storobin, a Republican who had won a special election earlier this year to fill a seat previously held by Carl Kruger, who is now in prison after pleading guilty to taking bribes. And in Poughkeepsie, Senator Stephen M. Saland, a Republican, is currently about 1,600 votes behind the Democratic candidate, Terry W. Gipson. A Conservative Party candidate, Neil A. Di Carlo, whom Mr. Saland narrowly defeated in the Republican primary, had a significant impact on the race, winning more than 16,000 votes in the general election; this race will also be finally determined after absentee ballots are counted.
But when all the numbers are in and the “too close to call” races have been called, even if Democrats emerge from the elections with a mathematical majority, their control would still be uncertain. Why? Four Senate Democrats who defected last year to form their own independent caucus have not said whom they would support as majority leader — a Democrat or a Republican — to control the chamber. The plot thickens…………….
So at this point, while most believe that little will change at the national level since the political landscape is relatively unchanged (same President, Dems control the US Senate, Reps control the US House – sound familiar????), significant change, and in my opinion, not for the better, could be coming at the state level here in NY, depending on the ultimate balance of power in the NY State Legislature. Only time will tell.