By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY Republican retained the county executive seats in the New York City area on Election Day, and three major upstate cities will have women mayors for the first time.
Despite Democrats holding a 2-to-1 enrollment edge over Republicans in New York, the GOP was able to win county executive races in Nassau, Westchester, Rockland and Orange counties. Two were open seats held by Republicans, and two Republican incumbents in Westchester and Nassau won.
Republicans viewed the wins as a warning to Democrats in New York heading into the 2014 elections - when Gov. Andrew Cuomo will seek re-election and other statewide seats, all held by Democrats, will be on the ballot.
Republicans also won the mayor's seat in Binghamton, which had been held by Democrat Matt Ryan, gained control of the county Legislature in Erie County and retained it in Dutchess County.
"If Republicans are winning in Erie and Westchester, Andrew Cuomo should start getting worried," the state Republican Committee said in a statement Wednesday.
Upstate will have a first. Women will be the mayors in Rochester, Syracuse and Albany. They are Democrats.
In Rochester, Lovely Warren will be the first African-American woman to hold the job after defeating incumbent Thomas Richards, who lost a primary and then couldn't win on third-party lines Tuesday.
"Being the first female mayor and making history tonight, it could not have been done without the citizens of Rochester. For that, I thank them," Warren said after her election speech.
In Syracuse, Mayor Stephanie Miner won a second term. She is also co-chairwoman of the state Democratic Committee and has butted heads with Cuomo over pension reform and mandate relief for local governments.
"I know tonight that we know that the voters of this community believe that Syracuse and Onondaga County is in safe hands with the Democrats," Miner said in her acceptance speech.
In Albany, voters elected Kathy Sheehan, who will succeed long-time mayor Jerry Jennings, who is retiring at year's end.
Democrats will regain the New York City mayor's office for the first time since 1989. Bill de Blasio easily won, and his victory was viewed as a major step forward for progressive Democrats. He succeeds Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, after three terms.
De Blasio has talked about raising taxes on the rich to fund education, while Cuomo has proposed to lower taxes next year. It may to set up a battle in Albany next year over the state's direction.
"Make no mistake," de Blasio told supporters. "The people of this city have chosen a progressive path, and tonight we set forth on it, together, as one city."
Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino cruised to a second term, which will fuel speculation that he will consider a statewide run against Cuomo next year. So far, Astorino hasn't said if he will ponder a gubernatorial run.
Statewide, Republicans touted Astorino's victory and the re-election of Republican Edward Mangano in Nassau County, saying voters choose Republican ideals. The two counties have the highest property taxes in the nation.
"Voters are turning to leaders willing to build smarter, leaner and more taxpayer-friendly governments," said Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County.
Cuomo backed Democratic candidates across the state, including those in Westchester and Nassau counties. Cuomo lives in New Castle, Westchester County.
But Cuomo walked away with his biggest statewide initiative passing with ease.
With 57 percent of the vote, voters backed a proposition to legalize up to seven casinos in New York - Cuomo's major proposal to boost the upstate economy. The first four casinos will be built upstate: in the Southern Tier, Albany area and Catskills.
Voters rejected a proposal to let judges continue to serve until age 80, instead of currently age 70.
Cuomo has been skeptical of the proposal, and the defeat paves the way for him to appoint the entire state Court of Appeals by the end of a potential second term.