There was no shortage of victories and losses this week, as voters cast their ballots for scores of candidates across the state and the government continued to grapple with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. From the North Country to Suffolk County, and President Obama on down, the Democrats’ triumphs added up. And though we won’t have a full account of the election’s champs and chumps until all the votes are counted and recounted, here they are: your winners and losers of the week.
Chris Collins – After being locked in a dead heat in the polls for weeks with Rep. Kathy Hochul, Collins managed in the end to eke out a win by against the popular incumbent. In addition, with his successful comeback after being ousted as Erie County executive last year, Collins secured the only congressional seat Republicans gained in New York this cycle. On a very dark night for the state GOP, Collins’ victory was one of the few bright spots.
Michael Gianaris - The odds of a Senate takeover were long. Senate Republicans had six times as much cash to spend on political campaigns as their opponents across the aisle, Gov. Andrew Cuomo supported a moderate Republican incumbent, Mayor Michael Bloomberg backed others and Democrats seemed to be struggling in the weeks before Election Day. So what happened? Demographics. Hurricane Sandy. President Obama. And while many can deservedly take credit for their roles, big and small, in carrying the day for the Democrats, it is the conference’s quarterback, Mike Gianaris, who deserves the M.V.P. Award for leading his team to their fourth-quarter comeback.
Kirsten Gillibrand – The outcome was expected, but Gillibrand defended her U.S. Senate seat in record-setting fashion, pulling 72 percent of the vote in her race against Wendy Long. Gillibrand’s campaign was fortified by a huge fundraising advantage, but the result shows how far she has come from being a little-known congresswoman to now being floated (albeit prematurely) as a potential presidential contender in 2016. In her acceptance speech, Gillibrand touted herself as a “voice for the voiceless.” Here’s hoping she lives up to that description over the next six years.
Jeff Klein -Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning up. The head of the Independent Democratic Conference just might be able to maneuver himself into the majority leader’s office after all the votes are counted. It appears that Klein and his three compadres could very well represent the balance of power in the state Senate, giving them enormous leverage over leadership positions in the chamber. Klein will have to fend off some formidable foes to end up as majority leader, but when push comes to shove over the next two weeks, expect Klein do be doing much of the shoving.
Joe Lhota – Two weeks ago, Hurricane Sandy struck at the nerve center of New York City and crippled its subway system. New Yorkers patiently navigated the city in taxis, buses, and on bicycles, as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority worked to pump its flooded subway tunnels and remove debris from its tracks. We certainly didn’t expect the transit system to run properly this month in the wake of catastrophic damage, but one by one the train lines came online capped off by the L train, which returned to service yesterday afternoon. So here’s to you, Joe Lhota. The MTA chairman is now fending off questions about a prospective Republican mayoral run. He at least deserves his own beer commercial.
Ed Cox – It’s not a good time to be a Republican in New York, and it’s got to be even worse to be the party leader. President Obama was re-elected, New York’s Democratic junior senator won in a landslide, the number of Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation dwindled, Democrats in both chambers of the Legislature increased their ranks, and the GOP may even lose their last bastion of power: the Senate. Like his counterparts across the country, the chairman will have to take a hard look at how to expand the party’s shrinking base in the state, where Democrats now outnumber Republicans two to one.
Steven Kuhr – The director of New York’s Office of Emergency Management should know what counts as an emergency – and that clearing a tree from his home while thousands were facing power outages and flooding just doesn’t qualify. While his office was in the midst of responding to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, Kuhr reportedly found time to dispatch workers to remove a tree from his driveway on Long Island. Yesterday Kuhr’s me-first mentality was exposed when Gov. Cuomo publicly sent him packing — a move the governor probably would not have made if he thought Kuhr was the right person to handle the relief effort.
New York City Board of Elections – Where to begin? While we acknowledge the difficulties that the Board had to deal with due to Superstorm Sandy, a three- to four-hour wait to cast a vote is simply unacceptable. Combine that with reports of broken voting machines, poorly trained poll workers, and pathetically inadequate outreach to displaced voters about their replacement sites, and it is clear this year’s election should provoke big changes in the embattled Board.
Dean Skelos – What was that redistricting fight about anyway? The partisan gerrymandering plan drawn by Skelos and his chums was supposed to keep Republicans in control of the state Senate, but that expectation is being sorely tested following several key Democratic victories this week. And with as many as three of the four GOP senators who backed same-sex marriage leaving Albany, Skelos’ move to let the measure come up for a vote seems increasingly damaging to his conference. Fortunately for Skelos, Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t go out on a limb to endorse many of his fellow Democrats, like Cecilia Tkaczyk, which could have hurt the GOP even more.
Mary Wittenberg – While we could dole out the blame to a number of people for the marathon debacle (and Mayor Bloomberg definitely gets an assist), Wittenberg, who organized the event as the executive director of the New York City Road Runners, deserves a heaping share of the responsibility. Not only she did demonstrate a total tone deafness to the city’s troubles by trying to press on with the event, her refusal to cancel the marathon until the very last minute, after many of the marathon runners had already traveled to the city, dramatically compounded her error and made everyone involved with the iconic event look bad.