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Judge Sets Deadline for Decision in 37th Senate District

The state's top judge has set a Dec. 20 deadline for three tight Senate races to be decided. Among them is a bid in the 37th Senate District, in which Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer is currently leading GOP candidate Bob Cohen by 600 votes.

Editor's Note: The original version of this article characterized positions of Democratic members of the Village Board of Trustees without checking with those trustees. Patch regrets the error. 

New York's top judge on Thursday issued an order for full recounts in three tight state Senate races, and set a Dec. 20 deadline for state courts to resolve all three elections, which include a bid by GOP nominee Bob Cohen to topple Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, D-Port Chester, in the 37th Senate District.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman was acting on a request by Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo to intervene in the races, which will and impact the fate of a range of legislation as well as efforts to balance a $10 billion deficit in next year's state budget.

Lippman's order requires the state Supreme Court to issue decisions in all three races by Dec. 6 and appellate courts by Dec. 15. The Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, will then hold a hearing on Dec. 20.

"I am in full agreement with [Cuomo] that swift judicial resolution of the legal issues presented in these matters is of critical importance," Lippmann wrote, echoing Cuomo's claim that drawn-out legal battles would paralyze state government and disenfranchise voters.

Democrats currently hold a 32-29 edge in the Senate with one vacancy. But all 62 seats were up for grabs this year, and the GOP has a 30-29 advantage coming out of Election Day. Two Republican victories in the outstanding races will give the GOP a 32-30 advantage next year; two Democratic victories will result in a split chamber that will have to forge some kind of power-sharing agreement.

As of Friday morning, it's appearing increasingly likely that the GOP will win races on Long Island and in Buffalo. But, according to Cohen spokesman Bill O'Reilly, Oppenheimer is currently leading Cohen by 626 votes with 8,202 ballots left to be counted.

O'Reilly applauded Lippman's directive, saying the state's dire straits cannot be overshadowed by politics.

"These races need to be decided by Jan. 1. With a new governor and a new legislature coming in, and the state's fiscal crisis, there's not a minute to waste," he said.

Election officials began counting emergency ballots, which are used by voters when machines malfunction, on Friday, O'Reilly said. Counting of absentee and military ballots will commence on Tuesday, and affidavit ballots will be counted after that. Affidavit ballots are used by voters whose registration is in dispute.

Meanwhile, a nail-biting race for three seats on the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees could be decided as early as next week, according to Mayor Norman Rosenblum, and it looks as if Democrats may sweep those races and gain the upper hand on the five-member board. The election has been held up because of legal challenges in the 37th Senate District, which includes the village.

According to unofficial results from the County Board of Elections, Democratic incumbents Toni Ryan and John Hofstetter, along with newcomer Sid Albert, are leading GOP nominees Greg Sullivan, Mary Vozza and incumbent Marianne Ybarra by razor-thin margins.

If the final results are challenged and gridlock persists, Rosenblum said the village would be authorized to continue governing under the current board, on which Republicans hold a 3-2 advantage.

"There is no threat to the everyday administration or operation of the village, and there should not be any interruption," he said, adding that the current board would likely refrain from making "any decisions that would bind the future board," including appointments.

Rosenblum, who is technically not affiliated with a party but makes it no secret that he adheres to Republican ideology, said the implications of the race are far-reaching for the village. Democrats support countywide searches to fill positions at village hall and in the police department, while Rosenblum and Republican Trustee Louis Santoro believe that jobs should first be offered to Mamaroneck residents.

Rosenblum and Santoro also are firm supporters of the village's relatively large volunteer fire department. Rosenblum said the Democrats favor considering a paid department. That is untrue, said Village Trustee Toni Ryan, a Democrat.

The mayor decried the manner in which the village was caught up in the Senate debacle, and wondered if problems with the new electronic voting machines would drive away voters in the future.

"If they were designing something not to work, they couldn't have done a better job," Rosenblum said of the election system, which has been criticized for its lack of privacy and the small print on ballots that frustrated some elderly voters.

 

"The village of Mamaroneck is at the epicenter of these miscues, and it's ridiculous," he said. "Before this election very few people voted [in local races], and this could make [turnout] even lower."

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