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Blog Home Page --> Local Elections

Obama's Mayoral 'Endorsement'

The White House finally came out in support of Bill Thompson in the New York City mayoral election in November, though it would not be an exaggeration to say the endorsement was not overly enthusiastic.

"The president is the leader of the Democratic Party and, as that, would support the Democratic nominee," Robert Gibbs said today.

Notice that he did not even mention the candidate's name. What's worse, Gibbs then went out of his way to praise incumbent Michael Bloomberg, an independent who is on the Republican ballot line. "The president, obviously, has had a chance to -- throughout campaigning and in his time both as a candidate and as a president to meet, know and work with Mayor Bloomberg and obviously has a tremendous amount of respect for what he's done, as well," Gibbs said.

Gibbs previously had said he wasn't aware if there was an endorsement coming.

Another Spurned New York Democrat?

The White House has weighed in on the New York governor's race, encouraging Gov. David Paterson (D) to step aside in favor of the more poll-friendly Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Today, you can likely add Bill Thompson to the list of Empire State Democrats being spurned by the White House.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs would neither confirm nor deny a New York Daily News report that President Obama is "refusing to get involved" in the New York City mayoral race unless the Democratic nominee can close the gap with Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent Michael Bloomberg.

"I haven't talked to anybody in political affairs about that," Gibbs said when asked if Obama would like to see the Democrat win the race.

During the 2008 presidential race Obama publicly wooed the New York mayor for his support, even having breakfast with him at a city diner for the cameras to see. Bloomberg has praised Obama at times since his successful election, and visited the White House multiple times. No poll has put the Thompson closer than 9 points of Bloomberg, who is on the Republican ballot line in November's vote.

Still, it's an open question whether the Obama White House's heavy involvement, or lack thereof, in local and state politics will backfire when he needs allies down the road. Of course, it's not just Obama staying out of the New York race. Al Gore strongly praised, though stopped short of endorsing, Bloomberg last week, praising his record on environmental issues.

Dems Close In On Control of NY State Senate

While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were busy throwing elbows Tuesday night, voters in Clinton's home state pushed Democrats an inch closer to an important milestone. Democrat Darrel Aubertine, a state assemblyman, surprised political observers by winning a northern New York State Senate seat in a special election over Republican William Barclay, whose father, the New York Times reported, once held the same seat.

The Dem pick up in this special election, made necessary by a Republican incumbent's retirement, puts the GOP in the tenuous position of holding just a 32-30 seat advantage in the legislature's upper chamber, and marks the party's seventh loss in recent years. Though a state senate seat may not sound terribly important, control of the upper chamber will be critically important when the state undergoes redistricting in two years, as we wrote in August.

After 2010, representatives of the Governor, the Assembly Speaker and the State Senate President will meet to redraw congressional and legislative district lines. Democrats hold the governor's mansion, though incumbent Eliot Spitzer will have to seek re-election in 2010, and own a wide majority in the Assembly. Taking back the Senate would put control of redistricting entirely in their party's hands.

Should that happen, not only will Democrats be able to redraw Senate borders to help their party win a new majority there, they will also be able to redraw Congressional borders and endanger some of the state's six Republican delegates to Washington. New York will lose two seats next year, meaning at least a few members of Congress will be forced to run against fellow incumbents.

If Democrats control the process, they will likely force Republicans together, or into districts that overwhelmingly favor the Democratic incumbent. The party will also be able to draw new Democratic voters into seats they hold tenunously, including those of freshmen Reps. Kirsten Gillibrand, John Hall and Michael Arcuri.

Republican seats currently held by Reps. Jim Walsh, who is retiring, John McHugh, Randy Kuhl and Tom Reynolds could be in danger. All three represent upstate New York, where Democrats have seen a resurgence and have captured both legislative and Congressional seats in recent years. Democrats also might be able to draw borders that weaken Republicans Vito Fossella and Peter King, who represent Staten Island and Long Island, respectively.

All sixty-two state senate seats are contested every two years, giving Democrats two more opportunities to snag victories in the chamber. They only need one seat to do so, as well: Lieutenant Governor David Patterson, a Democrat, would cast any tie-breaking votes.

National organizations favoring both parties, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and the Republican State Leadership Committee, consider the Empire State Senate a top priority, and competitive races there typically cost millions of dollars. And Senate President Joseph Bruno told the New York Post that he's not giving up without a fight.

Before redistricting comes, huge amounts of resources will be devoted to keeping or capturing one seat in what has become one of the most crucial battlegrounds in the country.