ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s longtime surrogate on Wednesday called on Democratic senators to replace their leaders after they publicly criticized Cuomo for doing too little to unify Democrats in order to wrest control of the chamber from Republicans.
“The Senate [Democratic] leadership has failed and it’s OK to fail, but to pretend the leadership has not failed is unacceptable,” said longtime Cuomo surrogate Charlie King, the former state Democratic Party executive director under Cuomo. “I would say look inward, shake up the leadership structure now and have these conversations in private as opposed to this public dialogue,” King said in an interview after his news conference in Manhattan.
Although Democrats won the 32 seats in the November elections needed to take control from Republicans, they aren’t united. Seven Democrats are now members of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, which works with the Republican majority; a conservative Democrat from Brooklyn who ran on the Democratic, Republican and Conservative lines in November is aligned with the GOP and sits in their conference.
Liberal groups including the Working Families Party have openly criticized Cuomo for working too closely with Republicans, while doing too little to win Democratic control of the Senate, which is run by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport).
The liberal Democratic groups say Cuomo must create a Democratic-led Senate to block conservative measures from Washington under President-elect Donald Trump.
“The time for political games is over,” said Karen Scharff of Citizen Action of New York on Wednesday. “We’re facing a real threat in a Trump administration that seems intent to follow through on its radical, unconstitutional campaign promises. Governor Cuomo and New York Democrats need to unify for the sake of all New Yorkers, so that our state can be a leader against Trump’s anti-worker, anti-immigrant and racist agenda.”
King said it’s unacceptable to publicly criticize and pressure Cuomo, the head of the state Democratic Party, to unify Senate Democrats. King’s announcement Wednesday in Manhattan coincided with the latest rally outside the governor’s office.
“If they truly wanted the governor to weigh in, do you honestly believe having a bunch of folks jumping up and down around his office will do it?” King said. “He works just the opposite way.”
Cuomo wouldn’t comment on the issue, but spokesman Rich Azzopardi denied that King spoke for the governor. Although Cuomo endorsed several Democratic Senate candidates during the fall campaign and provided some funding in his biggest effort yet to help flip Senate control, he has avoided any public intervention since then.
“When is winning a majority of members enough?” said Mike Murphy, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and the mainline Democratic majority. “Democrats have won a majority of the Senate three times in the past four years, yet we have been blocked from governing. That fact, and today’s chaos in the party are perfect examples of why we need the governor to step up and unite the Democrats.”
King said Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), who has been deputy of the conference and ran the campaigns should be replaced. King said next could be Stewart-Cousins, the first woman to lead a state legislative conference.
Stewart-Cousins was unanimously re-elected leader two weeks ago and she immediately reappointed Gianaris to his deputy position in charge of the campaigns.