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The always provocative Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) raised interesting questions Wednesday about control of the state Senate, backroom maneuverings and the possible role of race in reactions to the announcement by a newly elected Democrat that he’ll sit with Republicans in the state Senate.
The back story: Election Day results showed Democrats leading in 33 of 63 Senate races, which would normally mean they will seize control of the chamber come January. But this is the state Senate.
Next, Simcha Felder, elected as a Democrat in a conservative Brooklyn district, said he’ll join Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) in the GOP conference, stealing away one Democratic seat.
Meanwhile, in the race that might decide it all, Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk leads Republican George Amedore by just 139 votes in a Catksills-Capital Region contest and the outcome will hinge on absentee and paper ballots.
And there is wide speculation that the four-member “Independent Democratic Caucus,” headed by Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) might back Skelos as leader too.
Back to Diaz. Political junkies will recall, he was part of a “Four Amigos” coalition that temporarily left the Democratic conference in 2009 and threw its support behind Skelos, shifting power and throwing the chamber into chaos briefly, until going back to the Dems. At the time, the coalition pushed for more power for its members and, according to Diaz, for more Hispanics to be put in “positions of power” in state government.
“We were called traitors, bandidos, extortionists, crooks, thugs and every bad name out there,” Diaz said in his latest column, mailed out to media. “Now here comes Simcha Felder who makes his deal . . . and he and everyone involved in this effort are being called heroes.”
It’s uncertain who Diaz meant when he said Felder was being called a hero. But it’s crystal clear that he thinks his group faced a double standard. Of course, it should be noted that the other three amigos — all but Diaz — subsequently were convicted of various crimes.
Some other Diaz column tidbits:
-- Last weekend, Assemb. Keith Wright (D-Manhattan), who also serves as co-chairman of the state Democratic Party, tried to push Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan) to take over the Senate Dem conference from current Senate Minority Leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn). Wright saw Espaillat as a “unifier” of a fractured caucus.
-- By making Espaillat Senate leader, Wright would clear the field to make himself “heir apparent” to U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Manhattan) in a Harlem-based district.
-- There were also discussions about making Klein the Dem leader or Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), who as head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, spearheaded the party’s Election Day victories.
-- Diaz thinks that in the end Klein and his band “will all have to follow” Felder into the Republican conference.