Taking on Tony
The battle for the State Senate may be shifting to eastern Queens.
Queens State Senator Tony Avella enraged Senate Democrats today by joining the Independent Democratic Conference, a coalition of breakaway Democrats who govern the Senate with the GOP, and hurting the Democratic conference’s chances of taking over the chamber in November.
Behind the Scenes
Gov. Andrew Cuomo today dismissed questions about State Senator Tony Avella’s decision to join the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway faction of Democratic lawmakers who control the chamber with Senate Republicans, describing the move as part of the coming “political silly season.”
“You know, the politics and turmoil of Albany, right?” remarked the governor, speaking to reporters after announcing a new deal to film a Marvel comic series in the state. “I just heard about it today. I don’t know what it means, if anything.”
Malcolm in the Middle
The breakaway Democratic caucus in the State Senate is trying to recruit a candidate to unseat Senator Toby Stavisky, a Democrat from Queens, as they seek to strengthen their control of the chamber.
A source with direct knowledge of the Independent Democratic Conference’s plans freely admitted the efforts to Politicker this afternoon.
That was fast.
Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeffrey Klein effectively booted Senator Malcolm Smith from his breakaway Democratic caucus this afternoon, stripping him of his leadership position and all committee assignments in the wake of charges that he took part in an alleged bribery scheme.
Inside The IDC
Hell hath no fury like a county organization scorned.
Multiple Democratic insiders confirmed to Politicker that Queens State Senator Malcolm Smith, the fifth member of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, could face a primary challenger in 2014. Mr. Smith, it should be noted, has flirted with running for mayor as a Republican and is not going out of his way to strengthen his Democratic bonafides.
“It’s clear that Malcolm Smith is on his last term in the Senate,” said one source. “Caucusing with Republicans is not a viable tactic.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo has made it absolutely clear that the new Senate leadership coalition between the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference and and the Republicans will draw his ire if they do not support certain items on his agenda. Yesterday, we noted that it seemed the IDC and the governor might not be seeing eye-to-eye on one of the item on the governor’s “litmus test” for the coalition, campaign finance reform. Last night, we received a call from one of the five IDC members, State Senator Diane Savino, seeking to clarify the conference’s position on the issue. She also discussed the IDC’s goal, the racial controversies that have dogged the group and revealed the one person she’s not sure she’d allow to join the conference.
Governor Andrew Cuomo threw down the gauntlet on the new State Senate leadership coalition between the Republicans and the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference with a stern warning for them to support all of his agenda items that he has declared his “litmus test” for the group on Fred Dicker’s radio show this morning. Mr. Cuomo drew his line in the sand when the host asked about indications the new coalition might be hesitant to back all of the agenda items on the governor’s list. Mr. Cuomo, who has taken some heat from progressives for not doing more to oppose the coalition and back Democratic control of the Senate chamber, made it clear his tolerance for the group will cease if they don’t pass his test.
“If that’s true, then we’re going to have a problem Fred and we’re going to have a problem sooner rather than later,” said the governor.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has made enacting campaign finance reform part of his “litmus test” for judging the new coalition in the New York State Senate. Based on their recent statements, it seems he may only get half of the reforms he wanted from the new merger the Independent Democratic Conference and the State Senate Republicans.
Yesterday afternoon, the course of the New York State Senate was altered when a faction of the on-paper Democratic majority announced they would instead form a power-sharing agreement with the Republicans, equally splitting control of the chamber in an “unprecedented” fashion. Although labor has been wary of the situation thus far, seemingly preferring Democratic rule, Transport Workers Union Local 100 called the new coalition-style government “the best possible option” for the state.
It’s a particularly wild week in Albany, and in a surprise announcement, five members of of the “Independent Democratic Conference” have joined their Republican counterparts to form a “historic bipartisan partnership,” even as the Democrats protest the situation by pointing to their on-paper majority in the chamber. The IDC, whose numbers expanded today with Democratic Senator Malcolm Smith joining their ranks, had hinted at a bipartisan coalition of some kind, but only now have the details of this arrangement emerged.