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Second Democrat backs bipartisan coalition

ALBANY -- A Mohawk Valley state senator Wednesday became the second Democrat to signal he might support a "bipartisan coalition" to govern the body -- a move that could keep Republicans in power despite the Election Day results.

State Sen. David Valesky (D-Oneida) issued a statement that hinted four members of the Independent Democratic Conference could join with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his fellow Republicans to form a governing alliance.

"I believe the time is right for a true bipartisan coalition to govern the Senate," Valesky said. He said such a partnership would be "a bold new model of . . . governance for the people of this state."

Under such a scenario, the breakaway Democrats would be officially recognized as a third conference, in addition to traditional Democrats and Republicans, and share control over the flow of legislation, said state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), IDC leader. Though he didn't say specifically that he'd support allowing Skelos to remain Senate leader, Klein said any power sharing arrangement "has to include Republican involvement."

"Coalition government doesn't necessarily have to have a [majority] leader," Klein said.

Other Capitol veterans indicated a power-sharing agreement could mean Skelos and Klein share the title of majority leader on a rotating basis.

Currently, Democrats and Republicans each claim 31 seats following this year's elections, and control of the Senate appears to hinge on a paper-ballot recount in one upstate race.

The contest, covering a Catskills-Capital Region district, is so close that it's now subject to a court-supervised count of absentee and emergency ballots that will begin today.

Valesky's statement came just days after Klein wrote a newspaper op-ed pitching the idea of "coalition government." Klein also met with Skelos after Election Day, though the two haven't discussed details.

Newsday reported that Valesky could be appointed to a top leadership post -- possibly Senate president, the second-highest Senate office -- if the independent Democrats support Skelos.

Skelos has repeatedly said Republicans "will have an operating majority" on Jan. 1, the start of the new legislative session. His top lieutenant in the chamber, Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous (R-Binghamton), said Klein's public statements show the breakaway Democrats "would rather [join with] the GOP."

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