All Eyes On The IDC
ICYMI, from the morning memo:
The Independent Democratic Conference has — smartly — decided to lay low in the aftermath of Election Day one week ago.
Don’t worry. We’ll see and hear a lot more from the IDC, the breakaway conference of Democrats formed in 2011, much more as the year winds down.
Democrats are poised to gain a numerical majority in the chamber of 32, but that balance of power could change with what the IDC and/or Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder decide to do.
Will they provide a coalition-style government by siding with Senate Republicans, thus preserving the GOP’s (albeit diluted) hold on power?
Or would they cast their lot with Democrats and vote for a Democratic leadership team?
One thing that is not an option, the IDC insists, is their dissolution.
The foursome’s leader, Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, did stick his head up just a bit to talk to Tom Precious of The Buffalo News, and, shockingly, he was non-committal to which faction of the Senate his conference would align themselves with.
“The only thing I’m prepared to say now is, we believe that the Independent Democratic Conference will be a permanent third conference within the New York Senate, and the Independent Democratic Conference will have a major role in shaping the policy agenda of this state,” he told The Buffalo News.
This is very similar to what Klein, a former deputy majority leader and floor manager for the then-Democratic majority of 2008 to 2010, told the AP’s Mike Gormley before Election Day.
For some veterans of the chaotic era that was the Senate Democratic majority, the sense of deja vu all over again is very palatable. They recall the self-styled “Amigos” who held out for sweeteners and perks before supporting the leadership of Democratic Sen. Malcolm Smith.
Then there was the 2009 leadership coup that paralyzed Senate activity.
The IDC has gone to pains to show that they are not the amigos and that their alliance in based on substance, not flash and style. Over the last two years, the IDC has released policy-laden reports critical of government spending. They’ve backed decidedly liberal economic issues like raising the minimum wage while also supporting bread-and-butter local causes, such as the organ-donor measure sponsored by freshman Sen. David Carlucci.
But they’ve also tried to flex their political muscle, to mixed results.
Earlier this year, the group supported a primary challenger to Deputy Senate Minority Leader Neil Breslin. As the IDC and their allies poured cash and resources into the campaign of Democrat Shawn Morse, it appeared that Breslin, a longtime fixture in Albany whose brother is the recently retired county executive, had a real challenge on his hands.
But Senate Democrats pushed back hard against Morse and he eventually lost by a huge margin, even as nearly every other state lawmaker from the Albany area decided to retire this year.
The failed Morse project wrapped up amid rumors that the IDC would support other primary challengers — none of which ever materialized.
Instead, they donated to Sen. Tim Kennedy, at the time one of the remaining upstate Democratic lawmakers and started to say some nice things about him. A sincere effort to get Kennedy to their fold or a head-fake to the Democrats? It may have been a little bit of both.
In the end, it appears the IDC knew it was likely better to keep their heads down, run inoffensive re-election campaigns and see how November’s results would play for them.
On Monday came word from The Daily News that the IDC had a sit-down with Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to discuss what a coalition government might look like. For now, it does not appear anything has been settled after that meeting, as least publicly.
Skelos, whose conference did everything it could — from redrawing their own legislative districts to raising tons of campaign cash — to keep the majority. He now has to reassure allies and supporters of the GOP conference that they will keep their grip on power and the IDC meeting is the first sign that they’re willing and eager to make a deal.
Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have a leadership structure that is in flux. John Sampson is the minority leader, but no one, even Sampson himself, is willing to say if he will remain in charge come January.
So Democrats face a paradox when negotiating with the IDC: The Democrats’ leadership appears to be dependent upon whether the breakaway conference returns to their fold, but no clear front runner for now has emerged to take that job (to be sure, Democrats and Republicans are waiting for the outcome of two races, though Cecilia Tkaczyk and Terry Gipson are leading in their respective races).
In the end, we will likely see some form of coalition government, a wildly different experiment in a Senate chamber known for its historic predictability and majority-dominated structure. The only thing we can’t predict is whether it will work.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Nick Reisman on November 13, 2012 at 10:55 am, and is filed under Albany, Democrats, State Senate. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|