Democrats boo I.D.C., vow to reclaim ‘rightful’ majority

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New York State Democratic Convention (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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HUNTINGTON—Despite a somewhat dour assessment from new Democratic state chairman David Paterson, the party's legislative leaders vowed on Thursday that Democrats will win a clean majority in the State Senate this year.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver got the ball rolling, saying he wants Democrats to control the state's upper chamber.

“Give us a real Democratic majority in the State Senate,” he told delegates at the Democratic state convention. “We will give you a better, fairer, more prosperous state.”

Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins took the stage next, noting the “historic gains, winning four seats, giving us the numeric majority in the State Senate” in 2012, before letting her voice dip with lament.

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“You know what happened. We were not given our rightful place in leadership, because the Republican minority were empowered by some to maintain control of the Senate,” she said. The crowd booed.

“But I can tell you that's going to change. That is going to change. We're not going to let that happen again!” Stewart-Cousins promised. “We've got to come out this November, we've got to win even more seats in the Senate and claim our rightful place next to our Assembly colleagues as the majority. With everyone's help in this room, we're going to put forward a strong field of Senate Democratic candidates from across the state.”

In 2012, Cuomo backed both Republicans and Democrats, and he has declined to express a clear preference for Democratic control of the upper chamber. Indeed, Cuomo has used the Senate's current ruling coalition, where Republicans are allied with the five-member Independent Democratic Conference, to explain why some progressive priorities haven't been passed.

On Wednesday, Democrats tabled a resolution calling for reconciliation between the I.D.C. and the mainstream Democratic conference. Mike Reich, a senior official in the Queens Democratic Party, suggested local leaders back primary challengers to I.D.C. senators. (Queens Democrats recently endorsed former city comptroller John Liu's challenge to State Senator Tony Avella, who defected to the I.D.C. this year.)

Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, the leader of the I.D.C., attended the convention on Wednesday, but declined to comment on the resolution.

“I’m a Democrat and come election time I want to elect Democrats. But when the dust settles on that election, it’s up to me to govern,” he told Time Warner Cable News.