Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: Another Coup in the State Senate?

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Our Zack Fink is reporting about a private meeting that was planned for today – and then cancelled – between two Democratic State Senators who don't exactly like each other. Jeff Klein – who runs the most successful spinoff group since "The Jeffersons" – was supposed to sit down with Mike Gianaris, the frustrated political general of the regular crew of Senate Democrats.

Each side is clearly doing some complicated math to realize that a partnership would be in their mutual longterm interest. Although Klein's group of five renegade Democrats is currently running the Senate along with 29 Republicans, it's becoming a political marriage that's increasingly more difficult for Klein. From the half-hearted fight for the Dream Act to a half-baked campaign finance reform bill, legislation is coming out of the Senate that is hardly a progressive's dream.

Adding to Klein's headache is the possibility that former State Attorney General Oliver Koppell is talking about giving him a September primary challenge from his left. While Klein would have the upper hand in such a fight, it could be a difficult – and expensive – battle for the Bronx lawmaker.

For Gianaris, it's clear that while the political winds are in his favor, it could still be several more election cycles before his group of 24 Democrats gets enough mojo to win five or six additional seats and gain control regardless of Klein's clan. Gianaris' team is frustrated because if you went strictly by party enrollment, the Democrats would be running the State Senate right now, 33 to 29.

While neither politician is ever going to send holiday cards to each other, it wouldn't be strange for Klein and Gianaris to make a deal in a poker-playing town like Albany. The one person who could help broker an agreement is a quiet politician who typically abhors silence: Governor Cuomo. A few public statements and a couple of phone calls behind the scenes typically give the governor what we wants. If the governor really demanded unity in the Senate, it's likely it would happen almost overnight.

But the weird GOP-IDC Senate stewardship has largely been a great thing for Cuomo. A weakened Senate helps a strong governor – and it also keeps him from having to deal with liberal legislation that would likely hit his desk in an election year. Democratic State Senators of an earlier generation remember another Cuomo playbook, complaining that Mario Cuomo did little to help their party in its fight to seize control of the chamber from Warren Anderson, a tough Republican from Binghamton.

This is the kind of battle that gets little notice from voters but it's a fair question to ask the governor, the unofficial leader of the State Democrats. What's the point of having a party label if you don't wear the shirt?


Bob Hardt

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