3:35 pm Dec. 6, 2012
State Senator Malcolm Smith's decision to join a group of breakaway Democrats in joining the Republicans in the State Senate is notable for multiple reasons.
One: His vote counts. His defection gave the Republicans the ability to form a "coalition" majority without worrying about two outstanding recounts, which will probably not go well for them.
Two: It's funny. It was under Smith's leadership that the Democratic conference met its doom the last time it was in the majority, when it was held hostage by the "amigos," acquiesced to their demands, and was then blown to bits anyway. That episode led to the formation of the "independent" Democratic bloc Smith has now joined.
Three: If it were not for the defection of Smith, who is African-American, the "coalition" arrangement would consistent entirely of white Republicans and white Democrats banding together to keep a black-led conference out of power.
I asked Assemblyman Karim Camara, who recently criticized Jeff Klein's Independent Democratic Conference for its lack of diversity, for reaction to Smith's decision.
"The diversity was one of my concerns but still, even with that, I still have concerns about policy issues and how they'll be addressed," Camara said.
When I followed up by asking specifically about the diversity issue, he said, "Malcolm joining them highlights that."
Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for Smith, didn't address the race question, but said the senator wants "to make sure he has a government that works, is bipartisan and gets things and functions. It would be a great model for America."