ALBANY -- The looming growth of a breakaway coalition of Senate Democrats places them squarely in the driver’s seat to decide whether Democrats or Republicans take control of the state Senate after November’s elections, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.
“Their point is they’re growing. This is an institutionalization of their coalition, and I think they’re right,” Cuomo said of the current five-member Senate Independent Democratic Conference and their key victory in a primary contest earlier this week.
Marisol Alcantara, a union organizer, is poised to become the group’s sixth member after winning a Democratic primary in a northern Manhattan Senate district that will be heavily dominated by Democratic voters in the November general election contest. While Democrats currently have a numerical edge in the 63-member Senate, Republicans have managed to maintain control since late 2012 with the help of the IDC group and a Brooklyn Democrat who has conferenced with the Senate GOP.
In a presidential election year in a state overwhelmingly dominated by Democratic voters, Senate Democratic leaders have been hoping this would be the year their party could gain control of the Senate. But the IDC’s leader, Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democratic senator, has not said if his group will form a coalition with his former mainline group of Senate Democrats.
With the IDC now expected to grow to six members, Klein’s power broker status has increased again this week.
“The IDC is seeking to establish itself as basically a third party,” Cuomo said following an event in Queens.
“The big question is what do they do after the November elections because they ... would probably be literally the swing bloc between the Democrats and Republicans,” Cuomo said. “I think this electoral victory for Marisol actually improves their status as an independent coalition.”
Cuomo has gotten criticism from Senate Democrats for not using his political power to help his party take back the Senate. In 2012, he cut a deal with Republicans on new, GOP-friendly Senate district lines. In 2014, he vowed to work to remove the Republicans from power as part of a deal to win the endorsement for his own re-election bid that year from the Working Families Party; the governor’s efforts were called lackluster that year by Democrats.
The governor has made no secret of his strong working relationships with Senate Republicans in his nearly six years in office, though he has held a recent private strategy meeting with several Senate Democrats about their efforts to unseat Republican senators.