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North county Senators see troubled road ahead for state Republicans

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The outcome of a highly contested downstate state Senate race Friday could be of big political significance for the north country.

Democrat Cecilia F. Tkaczyk’s victory by just 19 votes in a court-ordered recount in the 46th District means that New York Democrats have a 33-30 majority in the Senate counting party labels.

But state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, said this isn’t the calculus that matters.

Mr. Griffo said the Senate is made up of three conferences: 27 members of the Democratic conference, five members of the Independent Democratic Conference and 30 members of the Republican conference, and one rogue Democrat who is conferencing with the Republicans.

“This is how crazy this gets,” Mr. Griffo said of the Senate’s political math. “The Republicans still have the most (people) in one conference.”

More importantly, the Republicans and the IDC have amended the rules of the Senate and formed a coalition leadership.

To that end, Mrs. Tkaczyk’s win “doesn’t affect anything,” Mr. Griffo said.

But he said it doesn’t bode well for future years for Republicans, who were in power for last year’s Senate redistricting.

“The next election will tell it all,” Mr. Griffo said. “It will all come down to 2014.”

“This was a disappointment and a surprise this year,” Mr. Griffo said of Ms. Tkaczyk’s win.

Sen. Elizabeth O’C. Little, R-Queensbury, said that while she isn’t positive how Mrs. Tkaczyk’s win will affect the state, “I think when you’re in a two-year election cycle you’re always working on the next election. (Republicans) may be able to gain more members and still work with the (IDC) coalition.”

Mr. Griffo agreed that the ground game is crucial going forward.

“You have got to look at everything,” Mr. Griffo said. “You’ve got to be realistic and look at the demographics in the state. And you’ve got to look at your strategy.”

Mr. Griffo said that over the past two years since Republicans took control of the Senate, “We cut taxes, cut spending and had an on-time budget. There were a lot of good things. If you were grading the GOP conference, we would have gotten a good grade.”

But New York is a “dark blue” state, Mr. Griffo said, and going forward, the Republican Party, even in upstate New York, is going to have to fight a tough battle to maintain power.

For upstate, where many Republicans draw support, the fight is also about representation.

“For the upstate calculus, it’s going to be terrible if you don’t have that balance [of Republicans in the Senate and Democrats in the Assembly] in the Legislature. The advocacy (for upstate) was from the Republican Senate,” Mr. Griffo said.

Mr. Griffo said the current coalition leadership may continue to be the secret to Republican success.

“I don’t see the IDC going away,” he said.

He said the next two years will be a test of the coalition’s ability to function, and also a crucial period in which the Republicans have to prove to the state that their leadership is valuable.

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