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Special state senate elections could have implications for upstate

Sen. Joe Griffo (R-Rome) worries about Democrats taking control of the Senate, saying it could lead to a lopsided representation of power in the state favoring New York City.

Updated at 3:40 p.m. Tuesday

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The New York state Senate will remain in Republican hands - for now.

A key Democratic state senator who has sided with Republicans said Tuesday that he will stay put - even if Democrats win two special elections Tuesday and win a numeric Senate majority.

Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder has long sat with Senate Republicans, to the frustration of members of his own party. Democratic leaders had hoped Felder might return if they win Tuesday's elections in Westchester County and the Bronx.

Republicans now have a one-seat Senate majority. Democrats say they'll now focus on winning a clear majority in November.

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Democrats are favored to win the two Senate seats up for grabs today, which would bring the party's total to 32. That would give Democrats enough seats to take control of the chamber from Republicans for the first time in about eight years. 

Sen. Joe Griffo (R-Rome) says that's concerning for upstate, where only three senators are Democrats.

"I don’t know how this can be healthy in any way for good government when every elected official that controls every element of the government is a Democrat from New York City," Griffo said. "That is something that I think is not in the best interest -not only politically or philosophically, but geographically."

Many of the Republicans who represent central and northern New York benefit from the current power dynamic in the Senate. Griffo is chair of the energy and telecommunications committee. Sen. Patty Ritchie (R-Heuvelton), who represents Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, is chair of the agriculture committee. And Syracuse-area Sen. John DeFrancisco ranks second in command in the Senate as deputy majority leader.

But even if Democrats do win both Senate seats in the special elections, they still have to convince a Democratic senator from the Brooklyn area to stop caucusing with the GOP in order to take control of the chamber.

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Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.