Gov. Andrew Cuomo brokered a deal between mainline Senate Democrats and the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference Wednesday, to create a unified Democratic Senate.
Cuomo said the move will help to “protect against Washington’s attack on New York and continue New York’s bold, progressive path forward.”
The IDC was founded in 2011 and was a group of Democratic senators who often caucused with Senate Republicans. The founding members of the conference were Senators David Carlucci, Diane Savino, David Valesky and Leader Jeffrey Klein. Other members include Senators Tony Avella, Jose Peralta, Jesse Hamilton and Marisol Alcantara.
Some critics, such as Cuomo’s Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon, say the unification is too little too late.
“If you’ve set your own house on fire and watched it burn for eight years, finally turning on a hose doesn’t make you a hero,” Nixon said.
Marc Molinaro, Dutchess County executive and a GOP gubernatorial candidate, said that Cuomo’s “sellout” of Senate Republicans was a means to advance his own political desires.
“The needs of upstate and suburban voters are more at risk than ever by New York City dominated leadership in Albany. We are one state, not one party – or one person’s political ambition,” Molinaro said.
The Senate will now be split with 31 Republicans and 29 Democrats, with two vacant Senate seats being filled in an April 24 special election. Depending on the results in those elections — one in Westchester and one in the Bronx — the deciding vote on controversial and polarizing legislation could come down to one Brooklyn senator.
Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who conferences with Republicans, has told reporters that he has no loyalty to either party, only to God, his constituents and the people of New York.
Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, who has been the Senate Minority Democratic leader, will take over as Senate Majority Leader and Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, who headed the IDC, will become Deputy, according to Cuomo.
“Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins will become the leader of that conference. That will actually make history in the state of New York. She will be the first female, African American leader of that conference, Cuomo said.
“We look forward to working with Senator Klein and the rest of our new Democratic Conference members to increase our numbers even more and govern responsibly for New Yorkers. We also thank Governor Cuomo for his efforts and look forward to continuing to work with him,” Stewart-Cousins said.
Sen. Jeff Klein praised the governor’s efforts to unify the senate. He says that while everyone involved will have to make sacrifices, they are also taking “two very important steps forward.”
“I want to commend the governor for his unyielding commitment to a successful unification and 2018 electoral victory will send a message to the entire country that in New York state we stand ready to confront any challenger that seeks to harm any New Yorker. The days ahead will be hard, there will be much to accomplish. But I believe Andrea Stewart-Cousins is a trailblazer,” Klein said.
Cuomo says that a Democratic Legislature is necessary to impede the Trump Administration agenda from “further damaging” New York state, to protect New Yorkers with state laws and to unite with progressive values.
“And it’s not uncommon to have it in intramural debates. You have it in Washington and every conference where you have different ideological perspectives. But what we’re seeing here today is we have a common enemy, and the common enemy is defeating Trump and Ryan and McConnell and defeating their agenda, and taking over the New York State Senate so we can protect this state the way it needs to be protected,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo sees the upcoming special elections as a way to create a full Democratic Senate. With more Democrats, Cuomo believes legislation such as the Child Victims Act, the Dream Act and bail reform could be passed.
“By joining together as Democrats, we will continue to fight to achieve the entirety of our bold agenda to make New York a fairer, safer, more equal state for all,” Cuomo said.