5:30 pm Dec. 18, 2012
A Harlem Democrat is accusing Governor Andrew Cuomo of condoning "plantation politics," by endorsing an arrangement in the State Senate that has effectively blocked black and latino senators from leadership positions in the chamber.
"Let’s demand that New York’s top Democrat, Governor Andrew Cuomo, stand up for representative government and against the plantation politics of backroom deals putting us on the back of the bus!" said Perkins, in a public statement.
The statement was released after Cuomo refused to express support for the Senate Democratic conference, which yesterday replaced its embattled leader, John Sampson of Brooklyn, with Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Westchester.
The change in leadership was meant in part to set the stage for support from Cuomo and a handful of breakaway Democrats who cite the "dysfunction" of the old Democratic conference as a reason for their non-support.
After Sampson was ousted by his colleagues last night, State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson told me, "It's going to be very difficult for any of the excuses the I.D.C. has used in not wanting to come back," referring to the five-member Independent Democratic Conference, which struck a power-sharing deal with Republicans. "Those excuses no longer exist."
Cuomo told reporters today that he welcomed Stewart-Cousins—the first woman to lead a legislative conference in the state's history. But he stopped short of asking the I.D.C. members to reunite with their Democratic colleagues, maintaining that it is for the senators to work out a leadership arrangement among themselves.
The I.D.C. also released a statement saying they looked forward to working with Stewart-Cousins, without addressing the possibility of leaving the Republican-led coalition.
"We were hopeful that he would, you know, provide some kind of leadership in terms of what was going on," Perkins told me after he released his statement about Cuomo.
Perkins, who has seen three governors take office since joining the State Senate in 2007, told me, "Governors are influential in terms of the legislative process. And I don't see him any different in that regard."
They "have all had opportunities to be helpful ... They're not out of the process automatically," Perkins said.
The Republican conference is all white, as are five of the six breakaway Democrats. The majority of the Senate Democratic conference is African-American or Latino. (Both Sampson and Stewart-Cousins are black.)
The leaders of all the other legislative conferences are white, as are all the current statewide office-holders, who were elected on a ticket headed by Cuomo.
When I asked if he got any reaction from the governor's office to his racially charged criticism, Perkins said, "No comment."