Six new attorneys were elected to the state Senate on Tuesday, three of which flipped a Republican-held seat to help Democrats claim a firm majority in the chamber heading into next year’s legislative session.
But the chamber will have no more attorneys than it did during the previous session. The upper house in Albany gained two attorneys, but also lost two attorneys after Tuesday’s election.
The difference this year will be the number of attorneys from each political party. Democrats and Republicans each had 11 attorneys in the Senate earlier this year, together comprising more than a third of the 63-member chamber. Come January, Republicans will have eight attorneys within their ranks compared with 14 for Democrats.
Eight seats flipped from Republican to Democrat on Tuesday, with three of those races won by attorneys. Three other new attorneys elected to the chamber on Tuesday are from the same party as their predecessors.
Five of the newly elected attorneys are Democrats, one Republican. Two of those Democrats will take districts currently represented by nonlawyers.
Sen. Martin Golden, a retired officer with the New York City Police Department, and Sen. Carl Marcellino, a longtime teacher, were both defeated by their challengers by slim margins Tuesday.
Replacing them, respectively, are Democrats Andrew Gounardes and James Gaughran, both attorneys.
Gounardes had a surprising win in a district that was considered a toss-up, leaning in favor of Golden leading up to Election Day. Gounardes is currently counsel to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who he’s worked for since 2014. He previously worked at the Citizens Committee for New York City, a group that provides community services in low-income neighborhoods.
Gaughran is an attorney in private practice on Long Island, where he has also served on the Suffolk County Legislature and as a town board member in Huntington. He’s spent most of the last decade as chairman of the Suffolk Water Authority. Gaughran lost to Marcellino in 2016, but pulled ahead this election cycle.
Conversely, two seats currently held by Republican attorneys will soon be occupied by Democrats who are not attorneys.
Two lawyers, Sens. Thomas Croci, R-Suffolk, and John Bonacic, R-Orange, chose not to seek re-election this year. Republicans failed to hold onto those seats.
Croci will be replaced by Monica Martinez, a Democrat and Suffolk County legislator with a background in education. Bonacic will be replaced by Jen Metzger, an environmental activist who is also involved in local government in Ulster County. She’s currently a town council member in Rosendale.
The three other new Democratic attorneys were elected to represent a district already held by an attorney.
Kevin Thomas, an attorney from Long Island, will replace Republican Sen. Kemp Hannon, an attorney and the longtime chairman of the health committee. Thomas is a staff attorney with the consumer protection unit of the New York Legal Assistance Group, which provides legal services for low-income individuals. He was also named to the New York State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2016.
Zellnor Myrie won the Democratic primary against Sen. Jesse Hamilton of Brooklyn in September and will succeed him in January. Hamilton was part of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference, a group of breakaway Democrats who caucused with the Republicans in the Senate.
Myrie was most recently an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell in Manhattan. He’s relatively new to the legal community, having just graduated from Cornell Law School in 2016.
Alessandra Biaggi, an attorney from the Bronx, was also a winner in the September primary, beating out Sen. Jeffrey Klein, an attorney who was the leader of the IDC. Before starting her campaign for Senate this year, Biaggi worked in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s counsel’s office, where she focused on his Council for Women & Girls. She’s also had stints in Cuomo’s Office of Storm Recovery and New York State Homes and Community Renewal, the state’s housing agency.
Biaggi has family ties to government and the legal community. She is the granddaughter of former Rep. Mario Biaggi, a Democrat from the Bronx who served for nearly two decades before he was convicted on charges of public corruption. She is also the daughter of Mario Biaggi Jr., an attorney in Manhattan. Biaggi Jr. previously had a law firm with his brother Richard Biaggi in the 1990s called Biaggi & Biaggi.
Robert Antonacci, currently the comptroller of Onondaga County, is the lone Republican attorney joining the Senate’s ranks in January. Antonacci is no stranger to state politics. He ran for state comptroller in 2014 and state attorney general in 2010. Both were failed bids. He will replace Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Republican and former medical malpractice attorney from Syracuse who retired from office this year.
Nine other Democrats in the chamber are attorneys who won re-election this year, including State Sens. Todd Kaminsky, Michael Gianaris, Joseph Addabbo, Brian Kavanagh, Brad Hoylman, Luis Sepulveda, Jamaal Bailey, Shelley Mayer and Neil Breslin.
Antonacci will join seven other Republican attorneys who were re-elected, including State Sens. Ken LaValle, Philip Boyle, Andrew Lanza, Thomas O’Mara, Christopher Jacobs, Michael Ranzenhofer, and current Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.
The next legislative session is scheduled to begin in early January.