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IDC to Democrats urging unification: ‘See you at the polls’

Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) on Sept. 26, 2016.

Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) on Sept. 26, 2016. Credit: AP / Bebeto Matthews

ALBANY — In a symbolic vote, the state Democratic Party on Tuesday urged the breakaway members of the Independent Democratic Conference to rejoin their fellow party members in the Senate or drop their Democrat designation when they run for re-election next year.

The IDC didn’t blink.

“The reason why the Democratic Party is losing across the nation and at home is that they are co-opted by a small band of misfits who continue to talk to each other in echo chambers and refuse to acknowledge that the party of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Clinton no longer has the ability to communicate with working-class voters,” said IDC leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx).

“The Independent Democratic Conference will continue to fight for the working class and espouse the hopes and aspirations of all New Yorkers,” Klein said. “Big tent Democratic politics is good government and good politics.

“We will see you at the polls,” Klein said.

The Democratic Party headed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has little leverage to force the IDC to end its power-sharing agreement with the Senate’s Republican majority. A political party isn’t supposed to get involved in primaries, although individual liberal Democrats have threatened to find Democratic primary opponents to run against some IDC members.

The Democratic minority, led by Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), blames the IDC for blocking a Democratic majority that could have passed measures stopped by Republicans including more protections for late-term abortions, ethics reforms and a Dream Act to help fund education for immigrants without official documents who were brought to the United States as children.

“I’m glad the delegates of the state Democratic Party join our conference in recognizing the need for the IDC to abandon its coalition with the Republicans and work to ensure a Democratic majority,” Stewart-Cousins said.

Four Democrats led by Klein left the Democratic minority conference in 2011. They were dissatisfied with what they considered infighting and dysfunction that was blamed for a tumultuous two-year majority control by Democrats.

The IDC has worked increasingly closely with the GOP and its narrow majority, sometimes providing the votes needed to pass legislation or avoid a Democratic takeover of the majority.

The IDC has grown to eight members and works closely with Cuomo. Cuomo has also been criticized by Democrats as doing too little to create Democratic majority to control the Senate. The GOP is also aided by Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), a conservative who conferences and usually votes with the Republicans.

If Felder and the IDC joined the other Democrats, they could have the 32 votes needed to control leadership, spending, rules and overall control of the Senate. But hard feelings and some differing policy goals among those groups has made that impossible so far.

Democrats already have a strong majority in the Assembly in the state dominated 2 to 1 by Democratic voters.

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