Arguably, the most significant election result in New York last year was the Republicans picking up seats in the State Senate and regaining the Senate majority.
While there have been a number of theories offered to explain how this happened, I’m particularly interested in the one put forward by the State Rifle & Pistol Association “loss of the numeric Democrat majority in the State Senate can be directly attributed to the current administration’s gun control policies.” http://polhudson.lohudblogs.com/2014/11/05/gun-groups-tout-safe-act-anger-in-election-wins/
While it’s impossible to prove or disprove such a suggestion, we do have the data to give an informed opinion as to how likely this is.
For the past few years, the Prime New York voter has flagged voters who are likely to be gun owners, which we then sell to political campaigns. This has been done mainly by use of commercial data based on firearm registration OR subscription to one or more gun magazines,
A little over 1 million voters are identified as likely gun owners.
A caveat. This file does not list every voter who is now a gun owner and some of the voters may either no longer by gun owners or never were.
Voters who own guns are more likely to vote than the average voter. The overall turnout of the likely gun owners in the Prime New York file in the 2014 General was close to 53%
There were 5 elections that were key to the Republicans winning back control of the Senate. There were seats that Democratic candidates were defending after upset wins in 2012 and two were seats Republicans were being forced to defend with new candidates because one incumbent was running for Congress and the other retired.
All three of the Democratic Senators had voted for the SAFE Act, that Governor Cuomo proposed and the Legislature passed in 2013 after the Sandy Hook tragedy. All five Republicans pledged to support repeal of the SAFE Act.
In the two open seats, Republican Thomas Crocci in the 3rd Senate District in Suffolk County won by 9,661 votes with 10,039 of our likely gun owners voting and in the 40th SD, in the Hudson region, Terrence Murphy won by 9,009 votes with 18,098 likely gun owners voting.
In the 3 Democratic seats, Susan Serino beat Terry Gipson in the 41st SD by 3,642 votes with likely gun owners casting 15,168 votes, George Amedore beat Ceceilla Tkacyk in the 46th SD by 11,554 votes with 18,256 likely gun owners voting and in the 55th SD, Rich Funke’s margin over Ted O’Brien was 16,250 with likely gun owners numbering 19,484.
But wait, there’s more.
There was one bright stop for the Senate Democrats in 2014 and there is a case that the SAFE Act helped the Democrats there.
The 60th SD in Buffalo & suburbs was represented by Mark Grisanti, who was elected in a major upset in 2010 in a district that was changed dramatically in 2012.
During his first time, Grisanti cast of number of liberal votes, including being one of the four Republican Senators to vote in support of Marriage Equality.
In 2012, Grisanti was opposed in the Republican Primary by Kevin Stocker, an attorney, who criticized Grisanti as not conservative enough. Grisanti won the Primary with 5,806 votes to Stocker’s 3,930. Grisanti later was re-elected in November, becoming the only Republican Senator who supported Marriage Equality to be re-elected.
In 2014, after his vote in favor of the SAFE Act, Grisanti was again opposed by Stocker. But this time, Stocker won as he increased his vote total to 5,292, while Grisanti dropped to 4,051, giving his a victory margin of 1,241.
Stocker made Grisanti’s SAFE Act vote a major part of his campaign. I know that, in part, because his campaign purchased the file of the Republicans who are likely gun owners from Prime New York. 2,065 of the votes cast in the SD were from that file of likely gun owners.
So based just on the above numbers, in each district, more likely gun owners voted than was the margin of Republican victory in the General Election and more than in the 60 SD Republican Primary.
But it’s more complicated than that.
A few more caveats.
The number of votes I listed as having been cast by likely gun owners is based upon voters casting their votes in a general election in 2014. Some of them did not vote for State Senate.
Just because someone is a gun owner, we can’t assume they are against the SAFE Act or other measures to control firearms, so we can’t assume that all likely gun owners voted Republican.
Conversely, there are surely voters vehemently opposed to the SAFE Act who are not on our list of likely gun owners either because the file (as I mentioned earlier) is not complete or because they don’t own guns.
Plus, most gun owners in New York are probably more conservative than the average voter on a number of other issues and therefore had other reasons to vote for Republican.
That’s why I don’t think we can give a definitive answer to the question I raised about whether the SAFE Act is responsible.
I do think there is no doubt that Democratic support for the SAFE Act was a factor that helped the Republicans in the key Senate races, some more than others depending on the victory margin and the nature of district.