The Republican takeover of the state senate poses a challenge to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who needs lawmakers to fulfill his promises to raise the minimum wage and get college funding for undocumented immigrants.
De Blasio, a self-described progressive, raised more than $1 million and allocated staff for Democratic senate candidates. A deal he brokered that gave Governor Andrew Cuomo the support of the union-backed Working Families Party was supposed to lead to a Democratic takeover of the upper chamber. Instead, Republicans took 33 of 61 seats, winning a majority for the first time since 2010.
“It was more about Bill de Blasio taking over the state than it was about what people care about,” Dean Skelos, the Long Island Republican who leads the senate, said yesterday in a radio interview. “Our message resonated that it’s about jobs, it’s about the economy, it’s about taxes.”
De Blasio, 53, inserted himself into senate races in May by negotiating the deal with the WFP. In exchange, Cuomo promised to back a Democratic takeover of the chamber and allow localities to raise the minimum wage above the state’s floor, currently $8 an hour. WFP officials said Cuomo didn’t follow through on his promise and that he hurt their cause by creating a separate ballot line for the Women’s Equality Party.
“He squandered millions on a fake party and left millions more in his campaign account as New York Democrats in the legislature and in Congress withered on the vine,” Bill Lipton, the WFP’s state director, said in a statement.
Matt Wing, a Cuomo campaign spokesman, declined to comment.
New York City mayors from John Lindsay in the 1960s to Michael Bloomberg have battled with governors, who need to approve many city decisions, from installing red-light cameras to raising income taxes. Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, gave more than $2 million to senate Republicans between 2003 and 2012, according to campaign-finance filings.
De Blasio now faces a recalcitrant chamber, said Doug Muzzio, a political-science professor at Baruch College in Manhattan. The lower house in Albany, the assembly, is controlled by Speaker Sheldon Silver and his fellow Democrats.
“De Blasio’s agenda is dead on arrival because of a lack of ideological compatibility, and there’s going to be payback,” Muzzio said. “The Republicans are going to be ticked off.”
De Blasio, at a City Hall briefing with reporters yesterday, said he was looking toward 2016 to accomplish his agenda, a presidential election year, when turnout is typically higher among Democrats. He said the state senate results weren’t a repudiation.
“I just don’t buy into that whole way of looking at politics,” he said. “Republicans are going to have to think long and hard about how they comport themselves on issues like the minimum wage. A lot of Republicans will try to resist that. They do so at their own peril.”
De Blasio also said Republican control of the senate is little different from the situation he faced during his first year, when the body was controlled by a coalition of party members and dissident Democrats. He was still able to get state funding of universal pre-kindergarten and expand after-school programs for adolescent students.
The mayor declined to comment on the WFP statement about Cuomo, saying he hadn’t seen it. He said the governor did work for Democratic senate candidates.
Cuomo, a 56-year-old Democrat, won 54 percent of the vote Nov. 4, 7 percentage points lower than in his 2010 victory, according to preliminary results reported by the Associated Press. Rob Astorino, his Republican opponent, garnered 41 percent and took counties such as Monroe, home of Rochester, and Putnam, where Democratic senate candidates lost.
The governor may face pressure from his party to follow through with his pledges on the minimum wage and college funding, said Richard Brodsky, a former Democratic assemblyman.
In Cuomo’s first term, he pushed through a law legalizing same-sex marriage. He also cut corporate and estate taxes, moves that don’t align with the goals of de Blasio and the Working Families Party.
“Cuomo won, but he won ugly and there are reasons for that,” Brodsky said. “If he doesn’t make a course correction, he’ll have a very tough time.”
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