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'Long Island Six' Democratic lawmakers defended against progressives

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, majority leader of the New York

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, majority leader of the New York State Senate, on Jan. 7. Credit: Charles Eckert

ALBANY — The leader of the State Senate is defending Long Island Democrats against criticism from a liberal group that they aren’t progressive enough.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) was responding Thursday to an online ad backed by Housing Justice for All, a coalition of progressive entities, saying the six Long Island Democrats were beholden to the real estate lobby.

The activists likened the delegation to the “Independent Democratic Conference,” a different group of up to eight renegade Democrats who, from 2011 to 2017, helped Republicans maintain Senate control even when the GOP was in the numerical minority. That comparison was way off base, Stewart-Cousins said.

“The united @NYSenDems accomplished great things this year. We protected and expanded rights for millions of New Yorkers,” Stewart-Cousins wrote on Twitter. “We won’t allow unfair, baseless attacks divide us.”

Her tweet outlined a laundry list of progressive laws enacted in 2019, a banner year for Democrats at the state Capitol, including new measures on abortion rights, rent control, guns, bail, defendants’ rights and the right to sue for past sexual assaults.

Other Dems chimed in, too, noting the “IDC” didn’t merely disagree with fellow Democrats on some issues, but actually signed an alliance with Republicans. The Long Island coalition might be more conservative than New York City Democrats, they noted, but there is “no comparison” to the IDC.

“The IDC supported Republicans – my colleagues from Long Island support Democrats,” Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) wrote on Twitter. “The difference is clear.”

In 2018, Democrats won the majority of Long Island's State Senate seats for the first time in recent political memory, taking six of nine contests. The victories by Sens. John Brooks (D-Seaford), James Gaughran (D-Huntington), Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), Anna Kaplan (D-North Hempstead), Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) and Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown) were key to the party winning control of the chamber. Republicans had controlled the chamber for all but a few years in the last five decades.

Housing Justice for All criticized the Long Island Dems for not supporting a bill to allow people in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses — the Senate passed the bill even without Long Island votes. The ad also asked viewers to pressure the delegation to stop taking donations from real estate groups. But it didn’t expressly call on them to be challenged in Democratic primaries next year.

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