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Democratic leaders push Cuomo to pull Senate control from GOP

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on June 01, 2016,

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on June 01, 2016, in Manhattan. Credit: Charles Eckert

ALBANY — Some Democratic leaders on Thursday urged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to negotiate a Democratic coalition to take the Senate majority away from Republicans and fulfill the governor’s promise that New York will be a bulwark against GOP President-elect Donald Trump.

“It is more important than ever that Democrats stick together to hold the line against expected draconian efforts out of Washington to roll back and prevent progressive achievements,” said Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), who heads the mainline Democratic conference that is in the minority. “Now is the time for Governor Cuomo to step up and unify the members of his party so we can fulfill the wishes of New Yorkers who voted for a Democratic Senate.”

Her call was joined Thursday by liberal groups important to Cuomo’s 2018 re-election bid.

After Republicans appeared to retain their narrow majority to control the Senate on Election Day, Democrats revived their effort Thursday after Democrat John Brooks emerged with a 41-vote lead over incumbent GOP state Sen. Michael Venditto in the long count of absentee ballots in the 8th District race on Long Island. The Republican’s challenge heads to Nassau State Supreme Court in Mineola on Tuesday.

Democrats in Albany have already declared victory. If Brooks wins, Democrats would control the Senate if they could convince the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference to join them as well as conservative Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), who said he will again sit with the Republican majority to better serve his poor district from the majority.

Neither the IDC nor Felder, however, are expected to change course. But Cuomo’s lack of effort as head of the party to unite the factions after Election Day, as he tries to make legislative deals with all sides, deepens a rift within the party.

“This is a leadership test for Governor Cuomo,” said Bill Lipton, director of the liberal Working Families Party that is influential in Democratic politics. Cuomo “has yet to use the full powers at his disposal to unite Senate Democrats. The urgent threats that Trump and state Senate Republicans pose to millions of New Yorkers demand that he do so right now.

“If the Governor wants to help lead the national opposition to Trump, he can start in his own backyard,” Lipton said.

Citizen Action of New York, a group allied with the progressive goals of the WFP, also prodded Cuomo on Thursday.

“Governor Cuomo has spent the last three weeks promising to oppose President-elect Trump’s wildly regressive, anti-immigrant, anti-worker agenda,” said Karen Scharff of Citizen Action. “Now he has the opportunity to act on his words by making sure state Senate Democrats are united come 2017. New Yorkers will be watching to see if he rises to the occasion.”

Cuomo had no immediate comment. After withstanding surprising opposition for the important Working Families Party endorsement in his 2014 re-election bid, Cuomo promised to work to create a Democratic majority in the Senate after years of working closely with Republicans in control. Cuomo is expected to again seek the WFP endorsement in his 2018 re-election bid.

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