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ALBANY -- Democrat Oliver Koppell said he will continue his primary challenge of Sen. Jeff Klein, who leads the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference, despite growing support by unions and some party leaders for Klein.
“I’m running,” Koppell said Thursday in an interview.
Koppell said he’s undeterred by Klein’s endorsement Thursday by a major union in the Bronx race. The endorsement is partly the result of a Democratic deal in May to wrest control of the Senate from Republicans.
The endorsement of Klein by the 32BJ Service Employees International Union on Thursday is the result in part of a deal struck in May at the Working Families Party convention. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo agreed to pursue the minor party’s liberal platform that includes flipping Senate control in exchange for the minor party’s endorsement.
The deal struck by Cuomo and brokered by liberal New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio came with the support of a new coalition of unions. The unions agreed to support only Democrats in a concerted effort to win majority control of the Senate, as explained in Sunday’s Newsday (http://nwsdy.li/1roDTT1).
As part of that deal, the IDC agreed to align with mainline Democrats next year to form a Democratic majority to pursue liberal legislation and spending. Currently, Senate Republicans rule the chamber under a historic bipartisan coalition with Klein and four other members of the IDC.
Koppell said he doubts the IDC would align with Democrats if Republicans capture enough seats in the fall to either win a majority outright or win enough to entice the IDC back to a GOP coalition.
Koppell said he believes Klein joined the Democratic deal as a way to make the primary go away. But Koppell said that although most other Democrat challenges to IDC members are now falling away, he won’t stop.
“I don’t think that deal would have been made if I hadn’t challenged Sen. Klein,” said Koppell, a former New York City councilman and state attorney general.
On Thursday, the influential and deep-pocketed 32BJ Service Employees International Union on Thursday endorsed Klein.
“We are pleased to have the opportunity to endorse Jeff Klein for Senate,” said Héctor Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU.
An important consideration was Klein’s recent decision to plan to align with the Democrats after the elections to enact more liberal legislation and spending, Figueroa said.
“We need a Democratic Senate to make good on our promises to working families, and we will mobilize our members to make sure Senator Klein is re-elected with a mandate to do so,” Figueroa said.
"I'm honored that 32BJ SEIU, an important and active union, supports me for re-election and I look forward to working with them on core Democratic issues in the future," Klein said.
The union with 75,000 members is also supporting the planned alliance of Democrats by staying out of other Democratic primaries against IDC members. The union is keeping its members and campaign donations out of the important 11th Senate District race. There, the newest member of the IDC, Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens), faces former city Comptroller John Liu.
“Remaining neutral in some primaries will allow us to put more resources into securing a Democratic Senate, which could help to shrink the income gap and open up educational opportunities for more young people,” Figueroa said.