4:44 pm Nov. 9, 20121
The last time Democrats and Republicans fought for control of the New York State Senate, state government ground to a halt and the New York Post sent in a clown.
We haven't gotten that far yet, but the situation has real potential for messiness.
The Democrats have won enough seats to take over the majority, in theory, except four Democrats have broken off into their own conference and one of the newly elected Democrats has said he'll side with whoever's in the majority.
These breakaway Democrats are not quite the amigos who scuttled the party's control of the Senate three years ago, but the initial dynamic is similar—a handful of members are in a position to demand things of each party and go with the highest bidder. (Councilman Charles Barron has referred to this practice in the past as "hustlers hustling hustlers.")
So now another layer of complication: all five of the would-be kingmaker Democrats (Jeff Klein of the Bronx, Diane Savino of Staten Island, David Carlucci of the Hudson Valley and David Valesky of Syrcause and Simcha Felder of Brooklyn) are white.
The current leader of the Democratic conference, John Sampson of Brooklyn, is African-American.
Enter Al Sharpton, who had called a meeting in Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem to discuss the State Senate leadership fight.
But then Sharpton abruptly canceled the meeting after it was reported by Ken Lovett of the Daily News. In a public statement, the press-friendly activist-television host complained that the meeting had "become a media circus."
In announcing the cancelation, Sharpton said that the senators should "honor the vote of New Yorkers, and if that vote places Democrats in the majority, Democrats should have the leadership. Who those leaders should be is best left to those Democratic Senators."
Andrew Cuomo, who is all-but-officially allied with the possibly soon-to-be-minority Republican caucus in the Senate, which lost despite a gerrymander which the governor approved, has said he's not getting involved.
Liz Krueger suggested to Jimmy Vielkind that the Democratic conference is overall a much classier outfit now than it was during its brief, chaotic time in the majority.
Krueger is a progressive Democrat from Manhattan, who previously created a PAC back when Sampson was majority leader to get rid of what she called "bad apples" in the Democratic conference. Now she says the conference is a "much better group of apples and without any of that kind of crap."
When I asked her whether she thought the Democratic Democrats ought to be open to cutting a deal with the breakaway "Independent" Democrats, she said, "Who am I to broker anything?"
But then she said, "I believe people of good character and principle who run for office as Democrats will make decisions that serve higher goals for our state ... We might not all vote the same way or agree on everything, but what would prevent us from working together?"
Which sounded a little like a yes.
Back in May, when Klein appeared before the Franklin Democratic Club in the Bronx, he said, "It's not important you have any old Democrat, but the right Democrat."
According to the Riverdale Press: "He didn’t elaborate on who was the right Democrat, but did mention at the meeting he would support state Sen. Adriano Espaillat."