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What IDC-Democratic reunion would mean for Brooklyn

April 4, 2018 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
State Sen. Simcha Felder has been one of the most powerful politicians in New York State thanks to his cross-party alliances in Albany. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas

Brooklyn political circles were abuzz Wednesday morning, following a New York Times article on a pending reunification of the State Senate’s Democratic Conference and the group of breakaway lawmakers called the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC).

The Times reported that state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, leader the main group of Democrats, and state Sen. Jeff Klein, IDC chairman, had reached a tentative agreement to have IDC’s eight members rejoin their Democratic brethren.

The details still have to be worked out, but the agreement called for the IDC to be dissolved, according to the Times. Under the new agreement, Stewart-Cousins would be the Democratic leader of the state Senate and Klein would be her deputy leader, the Times reported.

If IDC, which has aligned itself with Senate Republicans for the past few years, giving GOP control of the legislative chamber, rejoins the mainstream Democratic Conference, the impact would be felt here in Brooklyn.

Two of IDC’s members are lawmakers representing Brooklyn neighborhoods. State Sens. Diane Savino (D-Coney Island-Bensonhurst-Staten Island) and Jesse Hamilton (D-Crown Heights-parts of Park Slope-Sunset Park) are both IDC members and enjoyed the clout that came with being part of a group helping Republicans hold the majority.

But another Brooklyn Democratic elected official, state Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Borough Park-Midwood), could also be affected by an IDC-Democratic reconciliation.

On the surface, a new IDC-Democratic Conference arrangement would appear to give Democrats the majority of seats in the state senate, pending the results of two special elections set to take place April 24 in the Bronx and Westchester. On paper, there would be 32 Democrats and 31 Republicans.

Felder, however, has caucused with Republicans for years, despite the fact that he is a Democrat. And his arrangement with the GOP is separate from IDC’s agreement with Republicans.

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With Felder’s help, the Republicans currently enjoy a one-seat majority in the 63-seat chamber.

With an IDC-Democratic reunion, Felder could still decide to caucus with Republican or he could decide to join the Democrats.

Felder, who won his senate seat in 2012, has always enjoyed a reputation as a political maverick.

He decided soon after his arrival in Albany to caucus with Republicans.

“I don’t believe in any particular party,” he told the Eagle in a 2015 interview. In that same interview, Felder said his goal was simple and practical: to get things done for his constituents, regardless of what political party was in power.

IDC was formed in 2011 during Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first term in office. Cuomo, who is running for re-election this year, played a major role in bringing Stewart-Cousins and Klein together, according to news reports.

Cynthia Nixon, the actress-political activist who is challenging Cuomo in the Democratic Primary for governor, issued a statement on the possible IDC-Democratic reunion and blasted Cuomo for letting the IDC fracture Democratic politics in New York state.

“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,” she stated.

Ross Barkan, a political journalist running against lawyer Andrew Gounardes for the Democratic nomination to run against Republican state Sen. Marty Golden in Bay Ridge in November, expressed skepticism about the IDC-Democratic deal and questioned the timing.

News of the arrangement came a few days after the state budget agreement was reached between Cuomo and legislative leaders.

“I welcome the dissolution of the IDC and I am glad there is a plan to reunify the Democrats. However, nothing is certain in Albany and we will need to see how this agreement is actually enforced. I do not understand why the powers-that-be waited until after the conclusion of the budget process to discuss reunification. Right-wing Republicans like Marty Golden were in the driver’s seat for the hammering out of a $168 billion state budget that delivered on few significant priorities for our neighborhoods. That was a travesty,” Barkan told the Eagle via email.

 

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