Democrats won two New York state Senate special elections Tuesday, gaining a numerical majority of the number of representatives in the chamber. But the results will not allow Democrats to wrest control of the state legislature, as a key Democratic senator announced earlier in the day that he will continue to side with Republicans regardless of what would happen in the special elections.
In Westchester County's 37th Senate District, Democratic Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer defeated Republican Julie Killian, a former local official.
As of 10:29 p.m., with at least 61 of 313 precincts reporting, Mayer had 4,536 votes (60.6 percent) to Killian's 2,895 (38.7 percent). Shortly before 10 p.m., Mayer declared victory, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo rallying with her shortly afterwards.
In the Bronx's 32nd Senate District, Democratic Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda beat Republican Patrick Delices. Sepulveda was expected to win handily because that is an overwhelming Democratic district.
As of 10:29 p.m. Tuesday, with 173 of 219 precincts reporting, Sepulveda had 2,096 votes (88.7 percent) to Delices's 51 votes (2.2 percent) and Reform Party candidate Pamela Stewart-Martinez's 158 votes (6.7 percent).
On paper, 32 Democrats will make up the 63-seat state Senate, to Republicans' 31 senators.
But the announcement that Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, who had caucused with Republicans, would not join his Democratic party means the GOP will maintain control of the Senate.
Felder has long sat with Senate Republicans, to the frustration of other Democrats. Democratic leaders had hoped Felder might return with wins in Tuesday's elections.
Felder dashed those hopes Tuesday before the polls even closed, saying he didn't want a fight for Senate control to mar the last weeks of the legislative session.
"I believe it is my obligation to prevent an unprecedented and uncertain late session political battle that will only hurt my constituents and New Yorkers," he said.
As a result, Republicans will stay in charge at least through the end of the legislative session in June thanks to Felder's support.
"We're thrilled with Senator Felder's decision to continue to caucus with our majority," said Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif.
Democrats said they would now focus on winning a clear majority in November, when they predict opposition to Republican President Donald Trump will prompt a big Democratic turnout.
"Today's wins will once again give Democrats a numeric majority, and come November we will win even more seats," Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy said before the polls closed Tuesday. "The voters are sick and tired of Democrats that empower Trump Republicans."
Democrats already control the Assembly and hold the offices of governor, attorney general, and comptroller.
Another breakaway group of Democrats, the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference, also supported the Senate's Republican leadership but returned to the mainline Democrats this year under pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. On Tuesday, Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever said he remains committed to a Democratic takeover of the Senate.
"The governor's position is clear: the Democrats must unify to take back the majority," Lever said. "This conversation will continue in the morning."
There were also nine races for open state assembly seats: Two in the Capital Region, three on Long Island, one in Buffalo, and three in New York City.