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Control of Albany’s upper house hangs in balance

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo speaks about storm recovery and the election outside JHS 202 in Ozone Park. Photo by Ken Maldonado
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Control of the state Senate was still up in the air hours after the polls closed across New York state Tuesday.

Democrats were hoping to pick up seats in the state, where they lost six in 2010, as part of a larger goal of retaking the majority. In several key races, Republicans and Democrats vied for control of the Senate, where the GOP held a 33-29 majority prior to Election Night. Pollsters were keeping a close eye on five state Senate races that will determine which party holds the majority in Albany.

As of presstime, results were too close to call in those races, but at least two hotly contested state contests seemed to lean toward the Democratic candidate.

In Queens, state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) appeared to hold back Republican challenger Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) with about 75 percent of the vote counted and in Westchester, Assemblyman George Latimer (D-Mamaroneck) held a lead over Republican Bob Cohen in a race to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Suzi Oppenheimner (D-Mamaroneck), who retired this year.

Siena pollster Steven Greenberg said races in state Senate Districts in Queens and Westchester as well as in Albany and Rochester were the most competitive in the state.

Democrats have to retain two competitive seats and win three additional seats to regain the state Senate majority.

In Rochester, Democrat Ted O’Brien was favored to defeat Assemblyman Sean Hanna (R-Mendon) to succeed state Sen. James Alesi (R- Perinton), who is retiring.

“These three seats – two currently held by Republicans – are seen as among the key races in the Democrats’ attempt to retake the majority in the Senate next year. In order for there to be 32 Democrats in the new 63-member Senate, Democrats have to hold two downstate seats – the 15th in Queens and the 37th in Westchester – that previous Siena polling showed to be tight races and win three additional seats,” Greenberg said. “The Republicans believe they have a strong chance of maintaining the majority and of winning one or both of those seats.”

In a fourth competitive race in Albany, a newly created district under redistricting, Assemblyman George Amedore (R-Rotterdam) was facing Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk. A Siena poll showed Amedore with a tight lead as of presstime.

And the fifth race, which could give Democrats control of the Senate, is the contest between Democrat Terry Gibson, who has seemingly grabbed victory from Sen. Stephen Saland (R-Poughkeepsie).

But it is the race in Rochester that has most pollsters intrigued.

“Hanna had the early lead and the early advantage. He was better known and had a stronger favorability rating than O’Brien. That has changed in the last four weeks in this district with a five-point Democratic enrollment edge,” Greenberg said. “While O’Brien is still unknown to more voters than Hanna, he is viewed more favorably than Hanna and Hanna is viewed considerably more unfavorably than O’Brien.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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