Election Aftermath: Nation Divided; New York Gets Bluer

John Jordan | November 2018

From left; Gov. Andrew Cuomo; State Senator and Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins; and State Senator 40th District, Peter Harckham

WHITE PLAINS—The political landscape after the election on Nov. 6 changed dramatically both in Washington DC and Albany.

In the nation’s capital, President Trump and the GOP retained control of the U.S. Senate and in fact Republicans picked up seats from the Democrats. At press time, the GOP had 51 seats to the Democrats’ 46 seats, with a number of Senate races too close to call, including the contest between sitting U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and GOP challenger and Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who had a slim lead at press time.

The Democrats, however, picked up 28 seats in the House and wrestled control from the GOP. At press time, the Democrats had 222 seats, while the GOP had 199. While the Senate gives the GOP a number of powers, including Supreme Court Justice nominations, the Democrats’ majority in the House will give them subpoena power to investigate the Trump administration. Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand easily won re-election as the junior senator from New York.

With Gov. Andrew Cuomo easily winning a third term over GOP challenger and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro at the top of the ticket, the Democratic Party won key races across the state to take control of both the Assembly and Senate, a rare occurrence in state politics. New York City Public Advocate Letitia James earned the right to become the first black woman to be the state’s Attorney General. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli also easily won re-election. At press time, the Democrats, which already had control of the Assembly, increased its ranks in the State Senate from 31 to between 37 to 39 members, the largest majority for the Democrats in the 63-seat chamber in years.

Some of the key races in the Hudson Valley included Antonio Delgado defeating Republican incumbent Congressman John Faso in District 19 and incumbent Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney defeating GOP challenger James O’Donnell in the 18th District after a failed bid for Attorney General.

Some of the key statewide races included Democrat James Skoufis defeating Tom Basile for the State Senate 39th District seat vacated by the retiring William Larkin. Democrat Jen Metzger turned aside the bid by Republican Ann Rabbit for the 42nd District Senate Seat that will be vacated by retiring Republican John Bonacic.

In somewhat of a surprise, Democrat Peter Harckham defeated incumbent State Senator Terrence Murphy for the 40th District seat.

In the aftermath of the Democrats taking control of the State Senate, it is expected that State Senator and Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, who ran unopposed and won re-election to her 35th District seat, will likely be named Senate Majority Leader.

“The voters of New York State have spoken and they have elected a clear Democratic majority in the State Senate,” Sen. Cousins said in a statement. “I am confident that we will grow even larger after all the results are counted, and we will finally give New Yorkers the progressive leadership they have been demanding.”

With the Democratic Governor and the Democrats in control, political observers believe the State Legislature will continue to support Gov. Cuomo’s infrastructure spending, including the improvements planned for the New York City subway system.

Other initiatives that could progress in the coming term include attempted reforms to multifamily housing, such as the repeal of vacancy decontrol, the repeal of the Urstadt law (which gave the state power over rent control at the expense of the city government) and possible changes to the rent stabilization laws, according to the Real Deal.

Michael Kelly, government affairs director for the New York State Association of Realtors, told Real Estate In-Depth that it is too early to tell what impacts the election will have on the real estate industry.

He said that both parties value home ownership and the issues surrounding the residential real estate industry, noting affordable housing and taxation are not partisan.

“I think from our perspective as a state association, we have strong relationships with members from both parties,” which puts NYSAR in a good position moving forward.

He said that one of the issues in 2019 will be rent control, which is coming up for renewal. Kelly said the Democratic leadership in both the Assembly and Senate will likely make it a priority to not only renew rent control laws, but to perhaps strengthen them as well.

Kelly said that first-time homebuyer assistance and co-op transparency will once again be among NYSAR’s top legislative priorities in 2019.

HGAR Government Affairs Director of Philip Weiden agreed that the shift in power at the state capital could result in possible proposals to strengthen rent control in New York City, which would likely be criticized by the real estate industry. He also noted some legislators may turn to possible transfer tax proposals in communities across the state, which would also be met with opposition from real estate circles.

Weiden said that on the federal level, a divided government might lead to some beneficial changes to the SALT cap down the line.

“Perhaps they will allow you to deduct some more money when it comes to the SALT cap,” he speculated. “Instead of $10,000, they might raise it to $15,000 or $20,000.”

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth