Incumbents Reclaim State Senate Seats
Both parties celebrate as Savino and Lanza coast to easy victories
By PETER N. SPENCERSTATEN ISLAND ADVANCE
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- On a night when Democrats ended four decades of Republican rule by seizing control of the state Senate, voters were split on the race for Staten Island seats.
Incumbent senators Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) and Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) earned landslide victories in their respective races.
In the 24th District race, Lanza garnered 70,065 votes, for 70 percent of the electorate, while his Democrat opponent, Joseph Pancila, garnered 29,643, or 30 percent.
In the race for the 23rd District seat, Sen. Savino earned 40,216 votes, or 78 percent, compared to 11,370 votes, or 22 percent, for Republican Richard Thomas.
Afterwards, both spoke about the spirit of cooperation that will be necessary to break Albany's gridlock, and tackle the worst fiscal crisis the state has seen since the mid-1970s. Governor David Paterson called a special session of the Legislature for November 18 to help close an estimated $1.5 billion budget shortfall for the current fiscal year and get an early start on next year's budget.
"A lot of people in politics like to talk about who is to blame for this or that. I think that does the people a great disservice," Lanza said. "We have to get things done, and I believe my colleagues and I can do that."
Sen. Savino, who was elected to her first term in 2004, spoke about a broad agenda of job creation, education aide reform and middle-class tax cuts for her second four years. She said the state Legislature needs to change its "borrow and spend" mentality.
"It's not going to be easy. It's going to require cooperation with the Republicans in the Senate and the Assembly," Sen. Savino added.
Lanza, a former city councilman who succeeded retiring state Sen. John Marchi two years ago, already has a successful record of reaching across the aisle. It was Lanza who collaborated with Democratic Assemblyman Michael Cusick to persuade lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the Legislature to pass a bill creating the separate judicial district for Staten Island, which has shared one with Brooklyn for decades.
Helping to give Islanders the right to choose their own judge, he said, has been the "crowning achievement of my public service."
Democrats came into the night needing to pick up just two seats to take the Senate majority for the first time since 1965, and take control of the entire state government for the first time since 1935. By midnight, they had won at least 32 seats in the 62-seat chamber. They trailed 31 to 29 with two vacancies going into yesterday's election.
The Democrats picked up the seats by defeating two longtime Republican incumbents -- Caesar Trunzo, of Long Island, and Serphin R. Maltese, of Queens -- whose combined years in office spanned more than a half-century.
Sen. Savino, who was celebrating victory last night with her colleagues, said they turned the Democratic Presidential slogan "Yes We Can" into "Yes We Did."
"It's a whole new Albany. And when the Senate changes, the Assembly will follow," she said.