ALBANY — The governor’s race isn’t the lone crucial Democratic primary on Sept. 13 in New York.
Eight renegade state Senate Democrats are fighting for their political lives in contests that will have a lot to say, not only about the direction of the party, but also control of the State Senate.
Here are five things to know about the upcoming Senate primaries and the Independent Democratic Conference:
The IDC began in 2011 with four breakaway members who said the mainline Democrats had become dysfunctional.
Later, the IDC formed a governing coalition with Republicans to allow the GOP to keep control of the Senate, even though Democrats had won a numerical majority in the 2012 elections.
“The time has come for coalition government,” Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), IDC leader, told reporters in 2012 after announcing the partnership that would keep the GOP in control but give Klein some say in legislation and a better chance to deliver state aid to his conference’s members’ districts.
The IDC eventually grew to eight members. Six were New York City-based, the other two upstate. None were from Long Island.
New recruits said the group got results. They claimed a role in getting the Senate to back an increased minimum wage, among other issues. One member, Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), led the drive to legalize medical marijuana. They also received more lucrative Senate committee posts and stipends than other Democrats.
A move to oust the breakaway senators at the 2014 state Democratic convention failed. But the internal party pressure grew significantly after the election of President Donald Trump. The IDC officially disbanded in April, but it was too late for many who criticized the IDC-Republican alliance.
Four former IDC members have been especially targeted by activists and are seen as the most vulnerable:
Klein, Sens. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights), Jesse Hamilton (D-Brooklyn) and Marisol Alcantara (D-Bronx).
“No IDC,” a progressive group, is spending money targeting the four with digital ads.
Want more evidence? U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand recently endorsed the challengers in those four races: Alessandra Biaggi (who is taking on Klein), Robert Jackson (Alcantara), Zellnor Myrie (Hamilton) and Jessica Ramos (Peralta). And New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson endorsed the same four.
The challengers are portraying these primaries in the same light as progressives vs. centrists, new wave vs. establishment fights that not only marked the Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton battle for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination but also Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ stunning upset of Rep. Joseph Crowley in June.
Further, Ocasio-Cortez’ win changed the challengers’ outlook on their own chances.
The IDC is an issue in the gubernatorial primary, too.
Cynthia Nixon has bashed Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for tacitly supporting the renegade faction, part of her criticism that the incumbent is a “fake Democrat” who isn’t sufficiently progressive.
Before 2018, Cuomo repeatedly said he was powerless to force the IDC to return to the Democratic fold, saying it was a legislative matter. He also criticized the mainline Dems as being out of touch with suburban voters. He reversed himself earlier this year, pulling the IDC back into the fold, saying it was important for Democrats to unite to fight President Trump’s agenda.