Crown Heights

Hamilton joins IDC as election shakeup looms

Breakaway Dems have decision to make on power sharing

November 8, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
State Sen. Jesse Hamilton, pictured in Albany with his son Jesse Hamilton IV, sent shock waves through the mainstream Democratic Party with his decision. Photo courtesy of Hamilton’s office
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State Sen. Jesse Hamilton’s surprise announcement on Monday that he has decided to join a group of breakaway Democrats in the State Senate will give the band of political mavericks some added clout in the legislative chamber, according to political observers.

The Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), led by state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx-parts of Westchester), now has seven members with the addition of Hamilton (D-Crown Heights-Park Slope, Sunset Park).

State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Coney Island-parts of Bensonhurst-Staten Island) is a founding member of the IDC. The group was formed in 2011 when the small group of Democrats expressed dismay with the political agenda of fellow Democrats in the State Senate.

Klein and his IDC colleagues, who have entered into power-sharing arrangements with Republicans in the State Senate in the past to enable the GOP to maintain control over that legislative chamber, will have to decide which way they will lean once the election results are in.

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Currently, there are 31 Republicans in the 63-seat State Senate, not enough to maintain a majority. But thanks to the IDC and another maverick Democrat, state Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Borough Park-Midwood) who is not an IDC member but who caucuses with the Republicans on his own, the GOP has control of the chamber and sets the legislative agenda.

The results of just a handful of State Senate races around the state could determine the balance of power.

If the IDC continues to align itself with the GOP post-election, then Republicans will continue to rule the State Senate as they have for the past few years. But if Klein and his six fellow IDC members leave the GOP power-sharing arrangement and align themselves with the Democrats, then that party will control the legislative chamber, marking a major shift in policy.

“We welcome Senator Jesse Hamilton aboard the Independent Democratic Conference as our seventh member and look forward to achieving even more results for the people of New York with his support,” the IDC said in a statement on Monday.

Meanwhile, Hamilton revealed his reasons for breaking away from mainstream Democrats and signing up with the IDC.

The IDC has already won many major political fights, according to Hamilton.

“The Independent Democratic Conference [IDC] delivers for New Yorkers: the best paid family leave program in the nation, a $15 minimum wage and the toughest gun laws in the country. They get results. That’s why I’ve decided to join my fellow Democrats and become the newest member of the IDC,” Hamilton said in a statement. “This conference will continue to innovate, delivering to the people who matter most, my community and our fellow New Yorkers. Standing with them, I will be a prominent voice on affordable housing, quality education, safe streets and criminal justice reform. I look forward to serving with the Independent Democrats and achieving more victories for all New Yorkers.”

Hamilton also outlined the specific issues he plans to work on as an IDC member, improving public housing like the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), improving public education and working to combat gun violence.

“My life experiences growing up in NYCHA, representing clients in housing court, working as school board president and witnessing violence will shape my membership in the IDC,” he stated.

Hamilton first won election to the 20th Senate District in 2014. He replaced former state Senator Eric Adams, who ran for Brooklyn borough president in November of 2013 and won.

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