Legalised weed and universal healthcare just took a huge step forward in New York

  • Democrats have taken control of the New York State Senate from the Republicans, who have controlled it almost uninterrupted for the last 70 years.
  • This could have a huge impact on the state, with Democrats pledging to enact policies like universal healthcare, and running on platforms like the legalization of marijuana.
  • The Senate victory removed the last GOP stronghold, as Democrats already hold the state’s assembly and governorship.

Democrats have taken control of the New York State Senate after 70 years of near-permanent GOP control – and it could have a huge impact on the state, with possible consequences ranging from a push to legalise weed, to the introduction of universal healthcare.

Democrats have hardly ever been in control of the New York’s senate before. According to the New York Times, the party has held the upper house for a total of less than three years since 1945.

Election results on Wednesday changed that, seeing Democrats win Republican-held seats, unseating five incumbents and giving the party solid control of the chamber, with 40 seats to 23.

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Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the leader of the Senate Democrats, told supporters: “Thank you for sending us our biggest majority ever,” the Times reported.

“You keep making history, and you’ve made history for us,” she said.

Liberal policies

Democrats in the race had promised many progressive changes, including enacting universal healthcare. A bill that would provide New Yorkers with universal health care has been repeatedly defeated in the Republican-controlled state senate since 1992.

But now that the senate has turned blue for the first time in a decade, Republicans will struggle to stop another push, given that Democrats hold the State Assembly and state governorship already.

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Jessica Post, executive director for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said in a statement on Tuesday: “With Democrats’ leadership in the state solidified, New York can pass policies previously blocked by Republicans to expand health care coverage, address climate change, and ensure women retain the right to make their own medical decisions.”

Many candidates ran on the platform of legalizing recreational marijuana, a proposal that Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, who won re-election, has pledged to draft legislation for.

Candidates also pledged to push for Democratic policies including gun control, protecting immigrants, and reform of the bail system.

Record-breaking results

The elections also mark a number of firsts in the makeup of the state legislature.

Stewart-Cousins is expected to become the Senate majority leader, which would make her the first woman to lead either legislative chamber, and the first African-American woman to lead the Senate.

Julia Salazar, a first-time candidate, will be the first self-described democratic socialist to serve in the state legislature.

John C Liu, the former New York City comptroller, will be the first Asian senator, the Times reports.