ALBANY – Republicans and Democrats battling for control of the state Senate increased their spending on key races in recent weeks, and the furor over Donald Trump’s campaign is becoming a key dividing line heading into Election Day.
Senate Democrats condemned Trump after the second presidential debate Sunday with Hillary Clinton.
Republicans said his comments in a recently disclosed video are "offensive and intolerable" and do not represent the values "of the men and women of the Senate Republican Conference."
Republicans said they are focused on their own local races in New York, saying the GOP majority in recent years passed laws to strengthen womens' rights and increase access for breast cancer screenings.
"Actions speak louder than words, and that's who we are, what we believe and what is in our hearts," said Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif.
Linking to Trump
Republicans hold a slim majority in the 63-seat Senate heading into the Nov. 8 election, and Democrats are hoping to regain power for the first time since 2010.
They are trying to tie Trump to New York Republicans, with Democratic candidates last weekend pressing their opponents to denounce Trump.
“It is shameful that Senate Republicans continue to support 'with passion and with fervor' a proven misogynist like Donald Trump even after such clear evidence of his outrageous behavior has come to light," Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said in a statement Monday.
Who leads the Senate in January will have a critical impact on key social and fiscal issues in New York.
Special-interest groups expect to pour millions of dollars into the races to influence the outcomes in swing districts on Long Island and through the Hudson Valley.
On Monday, records showed that the Jobs for New York committee, funded by the Real Estate Board of New York, recently put about $300,000 into ads to help Senate GOP candidates.
Already, the parties' spending indicate their priority races, new campaign-finance records show.
Senate Republicans had $2.3 million in their campaign warchest after spending nearly $1.5 million on primary races and recents ads to boost candidates in the general election.
The campaign committee has pumped $180,000 so far into the re-election bid of Sen. Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, Dutchess County, and spent another $50,000 on her behalf, the records show.
In another key race, the Senate GOP transferred $142,000 into the campaign account of Sen. Terrence Murphy, R-Yorktown, Westchester County, who like Serino is seeking a second term.
Both Serino, who is running in a rematch against Democrat Terry Gipson, and Murphy, who is running against Democrat Alison Boak, have already started running TV ads.
Reif said the Senate GOP raised $1.1 million over the last two weeks, double what it raised during the same period two years ago when the Senate was last up for grabs.
Republicans are trying to tie Democrats to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in key suburban districts after the liberal mayor in 2014 tried unsuccessfully to help Democrats win a majority.
"New Yorkers recognize the need for balance and accountability in Albany, and understand the last thing anyone wants is to turn our entire state government over to Mayor de Blasio and the radical New York City politicians," Reif charged.
For their part, Democrats said they are outpacing Republicans in fundraising. Democrats had $1.1 million in their campaign coffers, aided by $332,000 in recent transfers from incumbent senators who are in largely in non-competitive races.
The GOP has "less money at this time in cycle than anytime before because people of New York are rejecting their Trump-like message and their failed leadership," Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy contended.
"Democrats will be riding our momentum into the majority."
Democrats are getting help from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the two-term Democratic governor who has boasted of his working relationship with Senate Republicans since taking office in 2011.
Cuomo has faced criticism for not doing more to help Democrats retake the majority.
So far this year, though, he's hosting three fundraisers for Senate Democrats, including one for Sen. George Latimer, D-Rye, who is in a competitive race against Republican Julie Killian.
On Monday, Cuomo called on all New York Republicans to denounce Trump after the videotape from 11 years ago surfaced Friday showing Trump making disparaging remarks about women.
"And if they don’t, they’re going to have to answer to the women of this state: Democrat and Republican," Cuomo said while marching in the Columbus Day parade in Manhattan.
"I don’t care what your politics are. This was insulting to people of every political stripe."
Still, Cuomo refrained from criticizing New Jersey Chris Christie's prominent role with the Trump campaign. The two governors have a close working relationship, and neither criticizes the other.
"I leave New Jersey to him, and his politics to him," Cuomo said. "And he leaves New York to me. And it’s not my place to tell him what to do."
Some Senate GOP candidates have rejected Trump.
Killian said Monday she will not vote for neither Trump nor Clinton.
"Like so many others, I am left disappointed, disillusioned and soul-searching when it comes to this presidential race," she said in a statement.
On Sunday, Latimer signed a letter with other Westchester County Democrats urging local leaders to condemn Trump.
"Westchester’s women deserve to know that their leaders stand for dignity and respect for everyone," the Democrats wrote.