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Downstate Democrat to continue support of GOP in State Senate

ALBANY – A Brooklyn Democrat is, once again, giving support to Republican lawmakers to help keep them in control of the 63-member New York state Senate.

With paper ballot counting due to start today in two undecided Senate contests on Long Island, Sen. Simcha Felder has sent word to the Republicans that he will not be bolting from the GOP conference to join the Democrats.

The somewhat complicated number-counting game in the Senate – made so by the different alliances that cross party lines – essentially means that Felder’s decision gives the Senate GOP at least the 32 votes it needs to retain domination of the chamber.

“Senator Felder is an important member of our conference and we have great respect for him as both a person and as a public servant. We look forward to continuing to work with him to move this state forward,’’ Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif said Monday morning.

Senate Democrats were not quite as pleased. “Any Democrat who joins with Donald Trump’s Republican Party enables his continuing assault on immigrants, women, people of color, people of different faiths and our shared American values. History will harshly judge those who put their personal political gain above taking a stand for justice at this critical juncture for our nation,’’ said Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats.

The decision was announced by Felder in a Sunday night interview on YNN’s cable show Capital Tonight, with the story being reported Monday morning.

Felder’s choice to conference with the GOP is not a surprise. He has done so since coming to the Senate four years ago, and this year he added the Republican line to the other lines he ran on for re-election. Last week, when Senate Republicans huddled behind closed doors at the Capitol to discuss the election results and upcoming session, Felder joined the group. “We need him,’’ one GOP senator said of Felder before the Brooklyn Democrat arrived late for the Capitol meeting.

This year, though, Felder considered, at least publicly anyway, the prospect of joining the mainline group of Senate Democrats, having met with their two top leaders at least once to discuss the possible benefits for him in abandoning the Republicans.

“I’m going to do whatever is best of my constituents,’’ Felder said in an interview last week at the Capitol. He said if there was a “compelling reason” to join the Democrats, he would do so. Still, Felder said at the time that going back to his days when he was in the New York City Council: “I was never a loyal Democrat.’’

On Long Island Monday, paper ballots to count absentee and affidavit votes begins today in Senate races. In one race, the GOP incumbent, Carl Marcellino, has a more than 2,000-vote edge. But Sen. Michael Venditto is behind by 33 votes after machine ballots were counted on election day. If he loses, Felder would provide the crucial 32nd vote for the Republicans. If Venditto wins, as Republicans are predicting, Felder would give the Republicans a one-vote breather edge over the Democrats.

Felder, who was talkative with reporters at the Capitol last week as he was mulling his Senate partisan alliances, declined interview requests on Monday, a spokesman said.

Also not talking is the Independent Democratic Conference, a six-member group – growing to seven in January – that has brokered various forms of power-sharing arrangements with Senate Republicans for the past six years. Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat who heads the group, has for months declined to say if his group will strike another deal with the GOP or cut some alliance with the mainline group of Democrats. It's likely Klein is awaiting the final outcome of the two undecided Long Island contests. If the GOP does control the Senate with Felder's help, Klein's IDC would likely have more reasons to keep its alliance with the GOP for another two-year session of the Senate than going with the out-of-power mainline Democrats.

email: tprecious@buffnews.com

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