New York State gears up for Senate and House elections

On Nov. 2, New York State will vote to determine the two senators and 29 congressmen that will serve in the 112th Congress starting in January.

In New York's 26th District, which includes Geneseo, Republican Christopher Lee is up for re-election. Lee was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2008 and is facing nominal opposition from Democratic retiree Philip Fedele, who is not actively campaigning in the district.

Lee has shown his support for Geneseo in the past, appropriating $500,000 last year for a new magnetic resonance spectrometer in the Integrated Science Center. He is expected to win re-election handily; he beat Democratic nominee Alice Kryzan by 15 percentage points in 2008.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is defending her seat against Republican challenger and public accountant Joseph DioGuardi. Gillibrand was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Senate after President Barack Obama appointed Hillary Clinton secretary of state in 2009.

Gillibrand, formerly a representative of New York's 20th Congressional District, has been campaigning heavily throughout upstate New York, traditionally a stronghold of Republican support. Gillibrand is from the Albany area and has been stressing her loyalty to the region.

DioGuardi and Gillibrand sparred at a debate on Oct. 21. The candidates exchanged sharp remarks, accusing each other of unscrupulous backgrounds. A recent poll puts Gillibrand ahead 55 to 44 percent.

Charles Schumer, a U.S. Senator since 1999, faces re-election for the second time against Jay Townsend, a market research and communications consultant. Townsend defeated Tea Party-backed candidate Gary Berntsen for the Republican nomination in September.

Schumer is predicted to win re-election easily. The most recent poll, published by Rasmussen Reports, puts Schumer at a 28-point advantage over Townsend.

Schumer is currently chair of the Senate Rules Committee and is considered the third-most powerful Democrat sitting in the Senate. Schumer was instrumental in organizing campaign contributions when the Democrats took both houses of Congress in 2006.

Schumer's position in the Senate would allow him to potentially succeed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada should Reid be defeated in his re-election bid by Tea Party-backed Sharron Angle. Schumer is outranked only by Reid and Dick Durbin of Illinois. Polls in Nevada indicate that Angle has a slight edge over Reid.

Elections in New York State remain critical on the local level. States are redistricted every 10 years according to census results, which were completed earlier this year.

Redistricting in each state is dependent on who controls the state legislature and the governor's mansion. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Cuomo has been polling consistently ahead of Carl Paladino in the run up to the election.

The question of how redistricting plays out, then, depends on the makeup of the state legislature, which is currently controlled by the Democratic Party. Even if the Republicans take both houses of the state legislature, the governor retains the power to veto any redistricting plan the legislature submits.

Election Day is next Tuesday, Nov. 2. Polls indicate that Republicans have a chance of capturing at least 50 House seats, which would give them a majority. Polling indicates that while Republicans do have a chance at winning a majority in the Senate, such an outcome is unlikely.