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Power Over Party For Malcolm Smith and Others

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The New York Post reported this morning that state Sen. Malcolm Smith will join the Independent Democratic Caucus the group that has pledged to help keep Republicans in charge of the chamber.

Smith was Senate Majority Leader in 2009 when Senate Republicans staged a coup with the help of two renegade Democrats, which left the Senate in chaos for weeks. 

The Independent Democrats, created and led by Bronx state Sen. Jeff Klein, supposedly left the Democratic confernece because of the infighting and absurdity that took place when Smith was "in control" with the Democrats. Smith, however, looks to be setting himself up for a run for New York City mayor on the Republican ticket.

Klein bolted the Democratic conference when Minority Leader John Sampson replaced him as head of the New York Senate Democratic Campaign Committee in 2010. Democrats lost a number of seats under Klein's watch in the 2010 elections. But Klein and his followers got some perks from Republicans in 2011 while rank-and-file Democrats saw their budgets and staffing slashed. 

This year, Democrats have picked up at this moment an undetermined amount of seats — likely enough that if all Senate Democrats were on board they would be back in the majority.

Newly elected Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder also decided to earlier this year that he would conference with Senate Republicans.

Senate Democrats can hardly contain their contempt for the IDC, even though it is in their best interest to try to make nice and lure them back.

Meanwhile, the Democratic conference continues to worry that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has approved the Senate Republicans' maneuvering to control the Senate because he favors them as a partner.

Some Democrats think Cuomo hopes a power sharing agreement in the Senate will bolster his bipartisan credentials if he should decide to seek the presidency in 2016. However, Cuomo has been taking flack from a number of sources (especially Chris Hayes of MSNBC) for not outright supporting Senate Democrats during the elections. 

Senate Democrats don't have to look very hard for hints that could worry them about where Cuomo's interests lie. 

Tom Precious of the Buffalo News pointed out an interesting discrepancy in how Cuomo has handled the uncertainty in the control of the Senate from 2010 to 2012. 

"Some wonder why Cuomo isn’t intervening to resolve the unsettled race quickly as he did two years ago, but his administration declined to comment Thursday," Precious wrote in an article Friday. 

Precious goes on to note that in November 2010, as Senate races were still being counted that Cuomo "wrote to Chief Justice Jonathan Lippman of the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, that he was worried about taking office in January without knowing who controlled the Senate. He said the chamber faced chaos that could affect all New Yorkers and that such a state of “limbo ... is not only undesirable but also unacceptable.’’

This year Cuomo has written no such letter. The New York Post reported yesterday that Senate Republicans have been intentionally stalling the court challenges in two contested races to give themselves time to recruit more Democrats or make other araingments. 

Sen. Malcolm Smith Marches in Puerto Rican Day Parade in Manhattan. Photo provided by Office of Sen. Malcolm Smith. 

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Guest Sunday, 21 December 2014