When the polls closed on Election night, it appeared the Republicans had picked up several key seats, with Republican challengers even holding comfortable leads over Democratic incumbents in races in Queens and Brooklyn – not just upstate seats – at 9 p.m. on the night of November 3.
But just as in the key presidential battleground states, as the mail-in ballots were tallied it was clear they were leaning heavily Democratic, and those Republican leads slowly started to evaporate.
For example, in Brooklyn, State Senator Andrew Gournades, who narrowly defeated longtime Republican incumbent Marty Golden in a very close race just two years ago in a district that is more likely to vote red than many others in the city, trailed his challenger, Vito Bruno, by about 6,000 votes on election night.
Again, that was a good sign for Republicans in a district with voters that have gone for the GOP in the past. But by November 18, Gournades held a 2,500-vote lead and eventually won re-election.
In Queens, Assemblyman Ed Braunstein trailed his challenger, John-Alexander Sakelos, by almost 2,000 votes when the polls closed.
Braunstein also represents a district that is not afraid to vote Republican. It was represented for decades in the State Senate by Republican Frank Padavan, and in the 2016 presidential election northeast Queens was a Trump stronghold.
But Braunstein would also win re-election after all of the mail-in ballots were counted.
Heck, even Congressman Tom Suozzi, who represents Nassau County and some of Queens and has been a fixture on the Nassau County political scene for decades, trailed his Republican challenger before the mail-in ballots were factored in.
Not only did the Republicans eventually lose many of the seats they were optimistic they flipped, the Democrats now hold supermajorities in both the Assembly and State Senate.
In other words, they control two-thirds of both houses and therefore have the ability to override any veto by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In the State Senate, it’s the largest Democratic majority in that legislative body in the history of New York State.
And last week, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers and Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris of Astoria wasted no time in taking a victory lap once the results came in, holding a press conference in the State Capitol.
“Under Democratic leadership, we have secured the largest Senate majority in state history due to our unprecedented record of fighting for our fellow New Yorkers,” said Gianaris. “With our communities facing extraordinary hardship during the current pandemic, there is much that remains to be done. I can’t wait to get to work and see how much more our new supermajority can do now!”
Of course, overriding the governor and pushing through other agenda items important to Democrats will only work if Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Majority Leader Carl Heastie can work together.
After all, Governor Andrew Cuomo can be a very politically persuasive force and has been known to divide and conquer.
On Monday, Stewart-Cousins sent out a tweet, which would seem to imply that - for now - there’s no trouble in paradise