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ALBANY -- The New York State Senate’s bipartisan coalition just became stronger at the expense of the Democratic conference with the defection of a Queens Democrat.
Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), who leads the minority conference of Democrats, said Wednesday morning that Sen. Tony Avella’s move to the Independent Democratic Conference won’t hurt her effort to regain majority control this election year.
“I wish him well,” Stewart-Cousins told Newsday in an interview. “My concern continues to be moving our progressive agenda.”
Eric Soufer, spokesman for the Independent Democratic Conference, confirmed Avella is joining the coalition.
Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) called Avella's move a "stunning rebuke to the old Democratic conference."
"Like us, he understands that New Yorkers don't want partisanship, finger-pointing or blame; they want Democrats and Republicans to work together to get results," Skelos said.
Although New York is dominated 2 to 1 by Democratic voters, Senate Republicans who ran the chamber for decades have maintained a share of control by joining with the Independent Democratic Conference.
With Avella, the majority coalition has 29 Republicans, conservative Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), and now five members of the Independent Democratic Conference. That totals three more votes than are needed to control action in the chamber and provides a bigger cushion against continued gains in elections by the traditional Democratic conference.
Two Senate seats -- one held by a Democrat, one held by a Republican -- are vacant. Sens. John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) and Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) are accused in scandals and were dropped by the traditional Democratic conference.
Avella didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Avella’s move, which was first reported by the New York Daily News.
The traditional Democratic conference will drop to 24 senators.
Conservative Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. (D-Bronx) said Avella’s move may be followed by other Democrats.
“To my colleagues in the Democratic conference, I say that now we can really kiss the majority goodbye, and as some of you have wished, we’re going to be in the minority for a long time,” Diaz said.