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DECISION 2010:   Home  |  Top News  |  On The Air  |  On The Issues  |  Struggle For Power  |  Crooked Lines

In this special five-part series, NY1 political reporter Erin Billups examines the fight to control the New York State Senate.

Struggle For Power: Control Of State Senate Up For Grabs This November

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While the races for statewide office are getting the most attention this political season, the fight to control the State Senate is also heating up. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

It's been a decades-long battle. After Senate Democrats had been in the minority for more than 40 years, they took control during the 2008 Obama tidal wave. But on November 2, New Yorkers will learn if their victory was temporary.

"We're gonna keep the majority and I think we'll expand the majority," said Senate Democratic Campaign Chairman Jeff Klein.

"This is about upstate having a voice. A Republican senate is going to bring that back to them," said Senate Republican Campaign Chairman Tom Libous.

Democrats hold every major statewide seat in New York. Over the past two tumultuous years, they've also controlled the senate with a razor thin majority.

New York City is their stronghold since only three out of the 26 districts are held by Republicans. Just two local races are considered competitive.

Upstate is still dominated by Republicans where seven of the 27 districts are in Democratic hands. Six of those races are thought to be tight.

Republicans also rule Long Island where only two of the nine districts have Democratic senators. The race in the third senate district is said to be one of the most contentious.

"How those races play out will determine who controls the senate," said NYPIRG Legislative Director Blair Horner.

Just one or two seats flipped could determine either a Democratic or Republican-led senate. The election outcome could also lead to a 31-31 split, with the incoming lieutenant governor serving as a tiebreaker.

Looking back to the 2009 senate coup, a tie does not bode well for New Yorkers of any political stripe.

"Albany’s default setting is Armageddon, not nirvana," Horner said.

What it all really comes down to is which direction New Yorkers want to see the state move in -- not just for the next two years, but for the next 10.

The winning party will likely be able to grow its majority by drawing out the competition next year during redistricting, a process which happens every 10 years.

"When we maintain the majority we can finally pass marriage equality, we can do a reproductive health act for women. We can do all of those things we weren’t able to do because of the tightness of our majority," Klein said.

Democrats say they will work better with Andrew Cuomo, the man they assume will be governor.

Meanwhile, Republicans continue to push their mantra of balance and have mounted an aggressive campaign to regain control.

"The Democrats in the senate have done a horrible, a miserable job. They’ve done nothing but increase taxes over the past two years and spending to the tune of $14 billion, $5,500 per household. People are sick of it," Libous said.

As voter anger continues to be a force, it could save Republicans from oblivion. Still, New York has become a heavily Democratic state and the battle for the senate is anyone's race.

Both parties are funneling their resources to about eight or nine key campaigns as the fight continues to intensify.

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