ALBANY – The group of breakaway Democrats headed by Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein has added to their ranks today with the defection of a Queens lawmaker from the mainline Democratic conference.
Sen. Jose Peralta, who is tight Queens Democratic Party leaders, is joining the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference, which began with four members during a 2011 split from the main group of Senate Democrats.
The IDC now has eight members who are part of a power-sharing deal that has kept the Republicans in control of the Senate.
Numerically, there are 32 Democrats and 31 Republicans in the 63-member Senate. But between the IDC and a Brooklyn Democrat, Simcha Felder, who conferences with the Senate GOP, 28 percent of the Senate Democrats do not belong to the central Democratic conference group.
Klein began the IDC with three colleagues, who some Democratic senators have derided as party traitors. But Klein and his group, who expressed frustration with the direction of the mainline Democratic group, have gotten themselves included on key budget and policy decisions over the years, and their districts have been rewarded with special attention from Albany because of the power alliances with the GOP. When closed-door state budget talks begin in earnest with the governor and the Senate and Assembly leaders in several weeks, Klein will again find himself as the fourth person in the room in what had once been called Albany's three-men-in-a-room bargaining system.
Word of another defection to the IDC, which was first reported today by NY1, a Manhattan news channel, began spreading yesterday within Senate Democratic circles, though there was conflicting speculation over which Democrat was going to bolt to Klein’s group.
A spokesman for the main Senate Democratic conference, which has criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not using his party influence to unite the Democrats in the chamber, lashed out at Peralta.
“It’s mind boggling that while on the national level Democrats are gearing up to resist the Trump Administration and its attempts to move the country backwards we have Democrats here in New York propping up an artificial Republican Majority. We need elected leaders that will put people ahead of personal gain,’’ said the spokesman, Mike Murphy.
A small but influential political party with left-leaning used Peralta’s move to criticize Cuomo. “The governor has consistently failed to unite his own party against Trump Republicans and to fully support those fighting for a progressive majority in the state senate. New York's working families will continue to pay the price for this of lack of leadership,’’ said Bill Lipton, state director of the Working Families Party.
Peralta, the first Dominican American elected to the Senate, represents several neighborhoods, including Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst, whose residents, without knowing it, on Wednesday gained new influence in Albany.
A Cuomo spokeswoman, Dani Lever, said it was the Working Families Party “that started the exodus from the Democratic Party.’’ She said if that group seeks Democratic unity, it “should lead by example and rejoin the party because otherwise it’s all hypocrisy.’’
In a written statement issued by the IDC, Peralta said he joined the breakaway group to “affect progressive change” in a number of fiscal and policy areas. “Joining the IDC will allow me to not only speak about, but deliver, on a progressive agenda for all New Yorkers,’’ Peralta said of the IDC, which helped push through a minimum wage hike and last year’s paid family leave law.
Klein praised Peralta for joining the group. “As a Democrat, Senator Peralta knows that at this moment in time it’s critical to join the IDC, not just sit on the sidelines, in order to bring about progressive change,’’ Klein said.