by on April 6, 2018

Together again, but original breakup's causes remain unresolved

State Sen. Jeff Klein

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other factors persuaded the Independent Democratic Caucus of the state Senate to reunite with the mainline Democrats yesterday, but the original cause of the split remains unresolved: Jeff Klein has been relegated to deputy leader of the conference, despite believing (perhaps justifiably) that he deserves the top job and has no plausible path to get it.

That was far from the only reason for the initial breakup, but it is easy to see why Klein was unhappy. He saw his prodigious fundraising and political operation as key to the Democrats storming into a majority just a few years after being outnumbered 38-24 in the upper chamber. Yet a majority of the conference did not want him, or perhaps any white senator, to lead their substantially minority caucus.

If Klein had more friends in the conference, race might not have kept him out of the leader’s post, but it certainly was a factor and still is.

No doubt Klein’s belief that he would have done better was reinforced by the mess that Senate Democrats made in the late 2000s of their first crack at majority rule in ages. Of course, that wasn’t a very high bar, given the criminal convictions of Malcolm Smith, John Sampson and Pedro Espada Jr., not to mention Hiram Monserrate and Carl Kruger.

Evidence that Klein has put any hard feelings behind him was hard to discern from Wednesday’s events. His heretofore enemy, Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, neither thanked nor credited him in her written statement about the unification, and in her unscripted remarks, was only slightly more grateful: “Senator Klein, obviously, I want to thank him for, you know, sitting down and deciding that this, this is the better move.”

Cynthia Nixon’s Democratic primary challenge of Cuomo likely helped push the governor into reuniting Senate Democrats because it pacifies the party’s left wing and elevates a woman into a full-fledged Senate leadership post for the first time in history. That also means Klein is stuck at No. 2—in a minority conference, no less—for the indefinite future.

As Klein put it Wednesday: “Sometimes you have to take a step back before you can take two steps forward. That’s what we are doing here today.” From his point of view, truer words were never spoken.


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