De Blasio huddles with I.D.C. to talk about reconciliation
ALBANY—New York City mayor Bill de Blasio met on Monday afternoon with state senators from the chamber's Independent Democratic Conference to discuss the possibility of a reconciliation with the chamber's mainstream Democrats, three people familiar with the meeting said.
The talks were described as still in the preliminary phase, one person said, and come as an array of Democratic officials and allied groups—including de Blasio himself—has threatened to back primary challengers to the five I.D.C. senators unless they agree to some sort of rapprochement.
Last week, Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told the Wall Street Journal that she had an “amenable” but “not conclusive” conversation with Senator Jeff Klein, the I.D.C.'s Bronx-based leader, about an alliance. She told the Journal that she held no personal animosity toward Klein, who soured relations with several of his former Democratic colleagues with sharp words and primary challenges after he seceded from conference in 2011.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn’t get along with me. I’m not a hyper-partisan person, I’m not an unreasonable person … what’s not to get along?” Stewart-Cousins said last week. “I think it’s important when people elect people to represent them on a specific party line that those people then go up and do that, and anything less than that is disenfranchising the voter. Because there was no expectation that you were going to go off and empower Republicans. For example. So I’m sure I could get along with Senator Klein.”
I.D.C. aides did not comment, nor did a spokesman for de Blasio.
In an email, Klein told the Wall Street Journal last week that “there are no discussions taking place.”
Currently, Klein holds power in concert with the chamber's 29 Republicans (and Simcha Felder, a renegade Brooklyn Democrat). Both Klein and Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos must agree on which bills come to the floor, and Klein's title is “co-leader.” It's not thought he would accept a different arrangement that diminishes his influence.
But it's also far from clear whether he will simply attempt to weather the primary challenges or try to stave them off. Several key unions, including SEIU 1199, are backing the insurgent candidacies of Oliver Koppell (challenging Klein) and John Liu (challenging Tony Avella), and primary challengers are against the remaining I.D.C. senators have begun to circulate petitions.
The I.D.C.'s senators have steeled themselves, and Klein has rolled out his own endorsements.
Syracuse-area sentor David Valesky said Monday in a newspaper chat, “I believe the IDC will continue to be a positive, productive conference after November.”
It's unclear when a reconciliation would have to occur to avoid the challenges, but the deadline for primary challengers to submit petitions is July 10.