The results of this election look a lot like most elections in New York state for the past 10 years. This year, Democrats won the state-wide positions of governor, comptroller, and attorney general, and hold comfortable majorities in both the Assembly and the State. However, while the results look similar, this election is likely to serve as a wake-up call to many democratic office holders as the margins of victory for Democrats is much smaller than expected.
Nowhere is that more accurate than the top of the ticket, where Gov. Kathy Hochul faced off against former state Congressman Lee Zeldin. Hochul prevailed over Zeldin, but the margin of victory was closer than what was expected. With over 93% of the expected votes counted, Hochul won 52.7% of the vote to Zeldin’s 47.3%. Hochul’s 53% vote share is the smallest total a Democrat candidate for governor has received since 2002.
Down the ballot there were several important races in the state Senate and Assembly. Due to re-districting, several incumbents were running in new districts and in some cases, against incumbents from other districts.
How did the election impact insurance?
Sen. John Brooks is representative of what can happen with re-districting. Brooks has been in the state Senate since 2016. In the 2020 election, he ran unopposed and won re-election in the 8th District—with 99% of the vote. This year, it was a different story. Due to re-districting, Brooks went from representing the 8th District to the 5th District. The demographics of the new 5th District are essentially the opposite of the former 8th. Based on 2020 election data, 53% of District 8 voters voted for a Democrat, compared to 48% who voted for a Republican.
In the new District 5, those numbers are reversed with 52% of voters voting for a Republican and only 48% voting for a Democrat. The change in demographics cost Brooks—he trails his challenger Steven Rhoads by more than 12,000 votes with nearly 62% of the expected votes reported in that district. The loss of Brooks is a blow to the insurance industry as the senator served on the Senate Insurance Committee and he was an insurance executive for many years before starting his political career.
Sen. Neil Breslin, chair of the Senate Insurance Committee, won re-election over his opponent Richard Amedure. While Breslin won re-election, his nine-point margin of victory is the smallest since he was first elected in 1996. In addition, Breslin dropped below 60% of the total vote for the first time in more than a decade, and only the second time ever. Breslin has been chair of the Senate Insurance Committee since the Democrats took control of the Senate in 2018. The ranking member of the committee, Sen. Pamela Helming, won re-election, getting twice as many votes as her challenger, Kenan Baldridge.
Also, there will be a change in leadership on the Assembly Insurance Committee. As previously reported, Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, chair of the committee, was defeated in a primary in June by challenger Sarahana Shrestha. Shrestha handily won the general election and will now represent the 103rd District. The next chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee has not been chosen, but an early favorite may be Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter. Hunter is the current vice chair of the committee and serves as chair of the Health and Long-Term Care Issues Committee for the National Conference of Insurance Legislators. Huntereasily won re-election in District 128 with more than 60% of the vote. The ranking member of the committee should remain the same as the current ranker, Assemblyman Kenneth Blankenbush, won re-election, running unopposed.
There are quite a few races that have not yet been called— due to the slow reporting of votes or due to close contests. The complete legislative picture will become clearer in the next few days. Stayed tuned to PIA for more.
Bradford J. Lachut, Esq.
Bradford J. Lachut, Esq., joined PIA as government affairs counsel for the Government & Industry Affairs Department in 2012 and then, after a four-month leave, he returned to the association in 2018 as director of government & industry affairs responsible for all legal, government relations and insurance industry liaison programs for the five state associations. Prior to PIA, Brad worked as an attorney for Steven J. Baum PC, in Amherst, and as an associate attorney for the law office of James Morris in Buffalo. He also spent time serving as senior manager of government affairs as the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, a chamber of commerce serving the Buffalo, N.Y., region, his hometown. He received his juris doctorate from Buffalo Law School and his Bachelor of Science degree in Government and Politics from Utica College, Utica, N.Y. Brad is an active Mason and Shriner.