Sen. Charles Schumer’s race against GOP challenger Wendy Long was over by 9 p.m., but the Senate races most important to him — the ones that could put him in the driver’s seat — were not going his way.
After voting at PS 320 near his Brooklyn home and sampling the bake-sale cupcakes, Schumer went to what was expected to be an over-the-top victory celebration for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Instead, Schumer acted as a cheerleader of sorts in a speech outside the center, imploring the crowd to chant “I believe that she will win” — even as results were suggesting a victory might be by the thinnest of margins, if at all.
Schumer had been hoping for a coronation of his own as Senate Majority Leader, replacing Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who is retiring.
But by 11 p.m. with polls closing in the Western states, the odds of a Democratic Senate victory were fast evaporating.
Democrats succeeded in winning only one seat from Republicans, with Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a veteran who lost both her legs in Iraq, defeating incumbent Republican Mark Kirk in Illinois. Democratic challenger Katie McGinty was ahead of incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, but the networks deemed the race too close to call.
Democrats needed four turnovers of Republican seats to win the Senate — if Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won.
If she didn’t, they would need to win five Republican-held seats.
But former GOP presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio, D-Fla., retained his seat. And in Indiana, Republican Todd Young defeated former Indiana governor and Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh. Republican incumbents in North Carolina, Wisconsin and Ohio also won.
Republican victories presented a nearly insurmountable blockade to Democratic hopes or regaining the control they lost in 2014.
Outside the Javits Center, Schumer read his speech through half-glasses riding low on his nose, expressing hope American voters “would bless us with a Democratic majority in the Senate” that could achieve Democratic goals such as college affordability, action on climate change, immigration reform and a full complement of nine Supreme Court justices.
But the string of Republican victories dashed Schumer’s hopes. The 65-year-old native of E. 27th Street in Brooklyn apparently will have to settle for the less-robust power of Senate minority leader.
“I’m sure he’s disappointed,” said Julie Novkov, chair of the political science department at the University at Albany. “The polls were looking good and Democratic strategists were looking to Latino voters to turn the corner, but it looks like that’s not the case.”
In New York, Long never stood a chance against the financial machine of Schumer, who gave away over $6 million to Democrats in close Senate races.
Schumer, who prides himself in visiting all New York’s 62 counties at least once a year, swamped Long with over three-quarters of the vote.
State GOP chairman Edward Cox praised Long for “a hard-fought race traveling across the state echoing the message of our presidential nominee Donald Trump.”
Long already enjoyed the dubious distinction of having lost to New York’s junior U.S. Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, in 2012 by a historically large margin (46 percent). This time, Long cast herself as a Trump acolyte and anti-elite candidate — a persona that tended to clash with her pedigree as a graduate of Dartmouth College and Northwestern University law school. The two held one debate.
No matter which party wins the Senate or the White House, neither side will dominate Washington.
“There’s not going to be a mandate for either side,” said Novkov. “Whoever wins is going to have a tough time.”