Back to where they came from.
The breakaway bloc the Independent Democratic Conference, which controversially sat across the aisle with the Republicans to deny the Dems a majority in the Senate since 2011, has dissolved and will rejoin the True Blues to help defeat the White House’s conservative policies, Gov. Cuomo announced on Wednesday.
“We have a common enemy and the common enemy is defeating Trump — and advance the progressive values that unite all of us so we call for Democratic unit for the greater good,” Cuomo said. “All the Senators will support each other.”
The musical chairs comes after an April 3 luncheon at a Manhattan steakhouse with Cuomo, Senate Democratic Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D–Westchester), and former Independent Democratic Conference leader state Sen. Jeff Klein (D–Bronx) to discuss a reunification plan for the eight rogue Democrats, following similar unfruitful talks in November. The critical confab came several days after the budget passed, which lacked much of what Democrats wanted, such as early voting and the child’s victims act.
Both Stewart-Cousins, who will now head the 31 Democrats and make history as the first African-American woman to lead the conference, and Klein, who will serve as her second in command, agreed to the reunion, putting the state Senate Democrats’ nominal majority into practical effect in not a fait accompli.
State Sen. Simcha Felder (D–Midwood) isn’t a member the formerly turncoat clique, but nonetheless caucuses with the Grand Old Party, retaining the Republican state Senate caucus by one vote. Felder previously told this paper that he would “be happy to be” back with the Democrats if he had “an ability to serve with the majority” and blamed the Independent Democratic Conference for impeding his warm reunion with his fellow Dems.
But now that the breakaway bloc is back in the fold, Felder is still holding out, according to Cuomo.
“We still have a Democratic senator who is a question mark,” the Guv said. “He’s made ambiguous statements and has an ambitious history, even if he comes back — you would need him for every vote — we know from his past votes that Sen. Felder does not agree with a lot of the issues that his conference wants to pass.”
Felder, who will face a primary challenge from Flatbush resident Blake Morris, did not respond to requests for comments.
And a group of eight challengers to the formerly rogue Democrats aren’t backing down in their fight to unseat them, including attorney Zellnor Myrie, who said he is still looking to oust state Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D–Crown Heights), saying the former turncoat’s reunification with the Democrats doesn’t make up for turning his back on his constituents to side with Republicans in 2016.
“The effects of that decision have had a lasting impact on the 20th Senate District. A potential unity deal does not erase the history of regressive values shown by my opponent over the last four years, nor does it protect them from the threat of representation by a lukewarm ‘Democrat’ in the future,” said Myrie. “I stand by my candidacy and pledge to govern as a true progressive Democrat when elected.”
• • •
Just hours after embattled Coney Island Assemblywoman Pamela Harris announced she would quit Albany following her January indictment for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from the city and federal storm-recovery agencies, several local politicos have come out of the woodwork eyeing her now-vacant seat.
Newly elected Bay Ridge Councilman Justin Brannan’s chief of staff Chris McCreight — a Bay Ridge Democrats member who also ran for and lost the unpaid position of district leader against Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) from rival group the United Progressive Democratic Club — confirmed he’s making moves to potentially make the jump from his city gig to Albany to improve the district’s public housing, schools, and crumbling transportation system.
“While I am honored to serve the community as chief of staff to Councilman Justin Brannan, I am also inspired by the calls to run that I have received from people from across the district,” McCreight said in an e-mail. “From Bay Ridge to Coney Island, the hardworking people of the 46th Assembly District want and deserve a representative who will stand up for working people and seniors, fix the NYCHA crisis, fight for our local schools, and repair our broken subway system.”
Sources say another new name being floated in the neighborhood is Brannan’s predecessor, former Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge), who also previously served in the state Senate before state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge), and lost his bid for Brooklyn District Attorney last fall. If he announces his campaign and ultimately sails to victory, he could win the local pol trifecta of holding elected office in the Council, Senate, and Assembly.
And the third new potential candidate is Treyger’s former chief of staff Ethan Lustig-Elgrably, who currently works for the Parks Department.
Both Bay Ridge Democrats member Andrew Gounardes and Bay Ridgite Ross Barkan are standing firm in their quest to unseat Golden, despite rumors that Gounardes could have made the jump to run against Harris before she resigned.
Gentile, McCreight, and Lustig-Elgrably join Coney Islander Mathylde Frontus, who has $4,439 in her campaign coffers, state records show, Bay Ridgite Kate Cucco, who previously lost to Harris in 2016 and mysteriously closed her campaign committee on April 3, and Republicans Lucretia Regina-Potter and Steve Saperstein, who challenged Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D-Sheepshead Bay) last fall.
Neither Treyger, Lustig-Elgrably, or Gentile responded to requests for comment.
Whomever replaces Harris for the Bay Ridge-to-Coney Island seat will be determined by a general election in November after the September primary, since she resigned too late for the governor to call a special election.