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Stewart-Cousins: Democrats' reunification talks began 'weeks ago'

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Friday that secret negotiations to reunify Democratic factions in the state Senate began weeks ago.

The five-member Independent Democratic Conference, in a joint statement with Democrat Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, announced Wednesday that it plans to drop its affiliation with Republicans and rejoin the mainline Democrats, a move that could shift the balance of power in the chamber, pending the November elections. The IDC and Republicans have shared control of the Senate since January 2013.

Talk of reunification had been swirling since Cuomo told the Working Families Party he would support a Democrat-controlled Senate, as part of the governor’s bid to win the party endorsement on May 31. Apparently talks began about the same time. 

“It began with a conversation that I had with the governor and Senator Klein weeks ago regarding the possibility of this new majority coalition,” Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said on “The Capitol Pressroom,” a public-radio program. “The conversation really talked about the IDC and the mainstream Democrats coming together, and it was a conversation that I then continued with my conference after that discussion.”

Prior to the release of the Cuomo-Klein statement Wednesday, Klein called Stewart-Cousins to discuss it, she said.

Klein split from the mainline Democrats in 2011, after the party lost the Senate majority in the 2010 elections. Klein called them dysfunctional; rank-and-file Democrats said Klein, the party’s campaign manager, mismanaged the 2010 contests. Rancor hardened when Democrats thought they had regained the majority in 2012 only to see the IDC form a governing coalition with Republicans, led by Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).

Stewart-Cousins acknowledged the “hard feelings” among Democrats but said party members are now “here for the bigger picture.”

“Those hard feeling existed. I would be Pollyannish to say that they didn’t,” Stewart-Cousins said. “Hopefully, you know, people will in general feel better about each other within our Democratic conferences. We can work collectively to serve New Yorkers.”

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