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Stories about New York

Elections in New York’s 22nd and Iowa’s 2nd set to have narrower margins of victory than any 2018 Congressional race

As of December 9, the results of two U.S. House elections remain uncertain. The election in New York’s 22nd Congressional District is too close to call amid an ongoing legal challenge surrounding partial recounts. In Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) was certified as the winner by state election officials as winning by a margin of six votes. Runner-up Rita Hart (D) announced she would contest the results before the U.S. House’s Administration Committee. Both elections are on track to be among the closest Congressional races in recent decades.

In 2018, 1,894 elections within Ballotpedia’s coverage scope were decided by margins of 10 percentage points or fewer, including primaries where candidates won election outright.

Broken down by level of office, 105 of these races were federal, 1,217 were state-level, and 572 were local.

Federal races in 2018 were decided by a smaller average margin-of-victory (MOV) than in any even-year elections since 2012. The narrowest MOV in 2018 was 0.12 percentage points in Florida’s U.S. Senate election.

At the state level, the narrowest MOV was 0.008 percentage points in the election for Kentucky House of Representatives District 13. Among local races within our coverage scope, the narrowest margin was 0.017 percentage points in the election for one of Maricopa County’s seats on the Central Arizona Water Conservation board.

There were 258 races decided by margins under one percentage point in 2018. This includes 20 races where the MOV was ten votes or fewer. Two races in 2018 were decided by a single vote: the election for District 1 of the Alaska House of Representatives and the election for District 13 of the Kentucky House of Representatives.

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Democrats gain veto-proof majority in New York State Senate

Democrats gained a veto-proof majority in the New York State Senate after enough remaining races were called over the weekend to bring them to a two-thirds majority in the chamber. Democrats already held a veto-proof majority in the state Assembly. In New York, two-thirds of members in both chambers must vote to override a veto, which is 100 of the 150 members in the New York State Assembly and 42 of the 63 members in the New York State Senate.

The status of a veto-proof majority has changed in four states as a result of the 2020 elections. These results are subject to change as more votes are counted and elections are certified.

– In Connecticut, Democrats gained a veto-proof majority in the state Senate.

– In Delaware, Democrats maintained a veto-proof majority in the state House and gained a veto-proof majority in the state Senate.

– In Nevada, Democrats lost a veto-proof majority in the state Assembly. 

– In New York, Democrats maintained a veto-proof majority in the state Assembly and gained a veto-proof majority in the state Senate.

The veto override power can play a role in conflicts between state legislatures and governors. Conflict can occur when legislatures vote to override gubernatorial vetoes or in court cases related to vetoes and the override power. Although it has the potential to create conflict, the veto override power is rarely used. According to political scientists Peverill Squire and Gary Moncrief in 2010, only about five percent of vetoes are overridden.

Prior to April 2018, factions in the New York State Senate included the mainline Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and an offshoot of the Democratic Party called the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). Republicans controlled the chamber from 2012 to 2018 through an alliance with the IDC and Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder. In April 2018, the eight members of the IDC rejoined the mainline Democratic conference, but Felder stayed with the Republicans, giving them an effective 32-31 majority in the chamber. In the November 2018 elections, Democrats expanded their majority to 40-23, giving them full control of the state Senate for the second time since 1964.

Forty-four states held regularly-scheduled state legislative elections on Nov 3. At the time of the election, there were 22 state legislatures where one party had a veto-proof majority in both chambers; 16 held by Republicans and six held by Democrats. Twenty of those states held legislative elections in 2020.

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New York Court of Appeals Justice Eugene Fahey announces retirement

On November 10, 2020, State of New York Court of Appeals Justice Eugene Fahey announced his retirement from the court, scheduled for December 31, 2021, when he reaches the court’s mandatory retirement age of 70 years old.

Justice Fahey joined the State of New York Court of Appeals in 2015. He was appointed to the court by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

Before serving on the state supreme court, Fahey served on the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division from December 22, 2006, until 2015. He served on the court’s Criminal Division in 2005. Fahey was elected to the State Supreme Court in 1996, where he also presided over cases in Erie County and the 8th Judicial District. He served on the court until 2005. Fahey was elected to the Buffalo City Court in 1994 and served until 1996. He served as a law clerk to Judge Edgar C. NeMoyer in the New York Court of Claims before entering private practice in 1985, where he served as house counsel for Kemper Insurance Company until 1993. Fahey served on the Buffalo Common Council from 1978 to 1983 and again from 1988 to 1994.

Fahey earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the State University of New York at Buffalo, cum laude, in 1974. He earned a J.D. in 1984 and a master’s degree in European history in 1998.

The seven justices of the New York Court of Appeals serve 14-year terms. They are appointed by the governor from a list of candidates provided by a judicial nominating commission, pending confirmation from the New York Senate.

The current chief justice of the court is Janet DiFiore, who was appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2015. 

The remaining four active justices of the court are:

• Jenny Rivera – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2013

• Michael Garcia – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2016

• Rowan Wilson – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2017

• Paul Feinman – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2017

Associate Justice Leslie Stein is also scheduled to retire from the court in 2021, on June 4. At the time of the announcement, no reason was given for Stein’s retirement.

As of November 16, 2020, there are four supreme court vacancies scheduled to occur in 2021 in three of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies were triggered by retirements.

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Justice on New York’s highest court schedules retirement

On November 3, 2020, State of New York Court of Appeals Justice Leslie Stein announced her retirement from the court, scheduled for June 4, 2021. At the time of the announcement, no reason for Stein’s retirement was given.

Justice Stein joined the State of New York Court of Appeals in 2015. She was appointed to the court by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

Before serving on the state supreme court, Stein was a judge with the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division (Third Department) from 2008 to 2015. From 2001 to 2008, she served as a judge with the New York Supreme Court 3rd Judicial District. During that time, she served as an administrative judge of the Rensselaer County Integrated Domestic Violence Part from 2006 to 2008 and as the chair of the 3rd Judicial District Gender Fairness Committee from 2001 to 2005. Stein served as a city court judge with the Albany City Court from 1997 to 2001. She also served as an acting family court judge in 2001. From 1983 to 1997, Stein worked as a private practice lawyer. In 1981, Stein worked as a confidential law clerk for the Schenectady County Family Court.

Stein earned an undergraduate degree from Macalester College in 1978. She earned a J.D. from the Albany Law School in 1981.

The seven justices of the New York Court of Appeals serve 14-year terms. They are appointed by the governor from a list of candidates provided by a judicial nominating commission, pending confirmation from the New York Senate. The New York Court of Appeals is the state’s court of last resort.

The current chief justice of the court is Janet DiFiore, who was appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2015. 

The remaining five active justices of the court are:

  • Jenny Rivera – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2013
  • Eugene Fahey – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2015
  • Michael Garcia – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2016
  • Rowan Wilson – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2017
  • Paul Feinman – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2017

As of November 9, 2020, there are three supreme court vacancies scheduled to occur in 2021 in three of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies were caused by retirements.

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Andy King expelled from New York City Council

The New York City Council voted 48-2 on October 5 to expel Councilman Andy King (D) for harassment and discrimination, conflicts of interest, disorderly conduct, and other violations. King represented the 12th district and was first elected in 2012.

A two-thirds vote is required to expel a city council member. The city council press office confirmed that this is the first time a council member has been voted off the council without a criminal conviction. King filed a lawsuit on October 5 in federal court challenging his expulsion.

The council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics had previously brought ethics investigations against King in February 2018 and in October 2019. The 2019 proceeding resulted in a 30-day suspension for King and a $15,000 fine. The council vote to expel King in that matter was defeated, 34-12.

In a statement, Council Speaker Corey Johnson said, “I agree with the recommendations of the Standard and Ethics Committee. Council Member King should be expelled from office. This is not a decision to be made lightly, but Council Member King has given us no alternative.”

King’s attorney filed suit against the council in federal court on October 5, 2020. King said, “Plaintiff is the first in the history of the New York City Council to be expelled without a separate concurrent criminal conviction.”

The New York City Council is composed of 51 members. The current partisan composition is 46 Democrats and three Republicans with two vacancies. The city’s charter requires Mayor Bill de Blasio to schedule a special election to fill the vacancy left by King.

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Senate confirms Cronan to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

The U.S. Senate confirmed John Cronan to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by a vote of 55-42. The Southern District of New York is one of 94 U.S. District Courts. They are the general trial courts of the United States federal courts.

After Cronan receives his judicial commission and takes his judicial oath, the court will have two vacancies, seven Republican-appointed judges, and 19 Democrat-appointed judges. Cronan will join three other judges appointed by President Trump.

Cronan earned his B.A., magna cum laude, from Georgetown University in 1998 and his J.D. from Yale Law School in 2001. During his legal studies, he was the editor-in-chief of the Yale Law and Policy Review.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed 203 of President Trump’s Article III judicial nominees—two Supreme Court justices, 53 appellate court judges, 146 district court judges, and two U.S. Court of International Trade judges—since January 2017.

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New York environmental bond removed from the November ballot, with governor citing an unstable financial situation

On July 30, 2020, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that a $3.00 billion bond measure related to environmental projects was removed from the general election ballot.

In April 2020, as part of the state budget bill, the New York State Legislature passed a provision for the bond measure. Gov. Cuomo proposed the bond issue, titled the “Environmental Bond Act of 2020 Restore Mother Nature,” during his State of the State Address on January 8, 2020. The budget bill also included a provision empowering the New York Director of the Budget to remove the bond measure from the ballot should the budget department decide that there would be an adverse effect on the state’s finances.

Revenue from the bond issue would have been distributed to flood risk reduction, coastal rehabilitation, shoreline restoration, and ecological restoration projects; projects designed to mitigate the impacts of climate change; land conservation and recreation plans; and wastewater infrastructure. The ballot measure would have required that the department make every effort practicable to ensure that 35% of the bond revenue was used to benefit environmental justice communities (EJCs). The ballot measure would have defined EJCs as “minority or low-income [communities] that may bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal programs and policies.”

Bill Ulfelder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in New York, responded to the news, saying, “While it is clear that the pandemic has had a serious impact on the economy of our state and the nation, this measure was an opportunity to create jobs and conserve the clean water, clean air, and natural resources our children and grandchildren depend on.”

With the removal of the bond measure from the ballot for November 3, 2020, there will be no statewide ballot measures in New York in 2020. “The financial situation is unstable. I don’t think it would be financially prudent to do it at this time,” said Gov. Cuomo. He said that he hoped voters would decide the bond measure in the future: “We’re going to postpone the environmental bond issue hopefully one year to next.” The New York State Legislature would need to pass the bond measure again. Gov. Cuomo also cited the proposed HEALS Act in the U.S. Senate, stating that some of the provisions regarding where people are taxed would “have a very negative effect on New York City.”

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Jacobs sworn into U.S. House to represent New York’s 27th Congressional District

Just under a month after Christopher Jacobs (R) won the special election to fill the vacant seat in New York’s 27th Congressional District, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) swore him into office on July 21. Jacobs defeated Nate McMurray (D/Working Families Party), Duane Whitmer (Libertarian Party), and Michael Gammariello (Green Party) in the June 23 general special election for the seat. Jacobs received 55.2% of the vote to McMurray’s 43.1%. Whitmer and Gammariello each received 1% or less of the vote.
Jacobs also won the Republican primary in the regularly scheduled election for the seat, which also took place on June 23. He will face McMurray, Whitmer, and Gammariello in the Nov. 3 general election, as well as second-place finisher in the Republican primary Beth Parlato.
Jacobs was serving as a New York state senator when he won election to Congress. He resigned from the state senate on July 20 in order to be sworn into congressional office the following day. The state’s 27th Congressional District seat was vacated when Rep. Chris Collins (R) resigned on October 1, 2019.


New York Assemblymember Gantt dies

New York State Assemblymember David Gantt (D) died on July 1 after serving in the legislature for close to thirty years. Gantt was first elected to represent District 133 in the New York State Assembly in 1983. He was elected to represent District 137 in 2013 and held that office until his death.
Vacancies in the New York state legislature are filled by special election. This year four special elections were called in the state legislature—three in the assembly and one in the state senate. All four were originally scheduled for April 28. On March 28, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) postponed the four state legislative special elections, along with New York’s presidential preference primary and one Congressional special election, to June 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state legislative special elections were subsequently canceled.
Gantt’s death creates the fourth current vacancy in the chamber. The partisan composition of the chamber is 103 Democrats, 42 Republicans, and one member of the Independence Party of America. All 150 seats are up for election this year.


House Judiciary Chairman Nadler wins three-way Democratic primary in New York’s 10th District

Rep. Jerry Nadler, first elected in 1992, defeated Lindsey Boylan and Jonathan Herzog in the Democratic primary for New York’s 10th Congressional District. The election was held on June 23, 2020, but results were delayed. due to the number of absentee ballots. New York state law prohibits such ballots from being counted until the beginning of the canvas period, which starts one week after election day.

The Associated Press called the race on July 1, 2020, based on an analysis of absentee ballots that had so far been return which concluded that there were not enough votes remaining for Boylan or Herzog to defeat Nadler. At the time the race was called, Nadler had 62 percent of the vote followed by Boylan and Herzog with 25 and 13 percent, respectively.

Nadler received endorsements from The New York Times, the Working Families Party, and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).