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Jeff Klein, IDC get squeezed on all sides
Leaders of the mainline State Senate Democrats held a conference call Tuesday morning to take the pulse of their members, the day after a surprise appeal for unity by the leaders of the New York Democratic Party, aka Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
But the person whose blood pressure should be checked is Jeff Klein, the leader of the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference.
Klein has aligned himself with state Republicans who hold a 32-seat majority in the chamber. But the GOP only has that majority by one vote because of the ever-transactional Sen. Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, who is quite clear that he will side with whoever offers the best deal. Right now, that’s Republicans.
The unity plea, which mainline leader Andrea Stewart Cousins readily agreed to on Monday, offers Klein a co-leadership spot. State party leaders say the plan is for Cuomo to call special elections in April — after the state budget is finalized — to replace Sen. George Latimer, who won the Westchester County executive post, and Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., who won a seat on the New York City Council.
If Democrats retain those two Senate seats, they then need to persuade Felder to return to hit the magic number of 32 that gives them the gavel.
But it’s not that simple.
The Working Families Party, which launched a #NoTrumpDemocrats campaign a few weeks ago against the IDC, put out a statement Tuesday afternoon demanding that the reconciliation take place at the start of the 2018 legislative session. Otherwise, the party will launch its campaign to take out the IDC members in the fall primaries.
And why would the State Senate GOP, led by John Flanagan, want to share some of the budget goodies with Klein in the winter, knowing he will take off in the spring and join Democrats? Klein is concerned he could get kicked to the side by the GOP in the budget talks.
And what if Democrats and progressives, for all their muscle-flexing, fail to take back the chamber in November? Klein would look like a fool.
There is concern among the mainline Democrats, too. What does Cuomo really want? Faced with declining revenues, it’s certainly easier for him to get the budget deal he wants (no hike in taxes) with the GOP in control. And is he really willing to make a deal that causes Felder to switch seats in the spring so that some progressive legislation can pass while the Democrats have the gavel?
Klein bought himself some time by saying he wanted a deal on policy issues first, including controversial social issues like GENDA, a gender equity bill that he knows Felder won’t support.
What Klein told Gannett’s Albany bureau on Tuesday seemed to dismiss the kumbaya invitation: “The letter is heavy on politics and very light on policy.”
But the suspense is giving everyone in state politics a dizzy spell.
Sometimes the Soros family really is funding your opponents
It’s not unusual for conservatives like Rep. Lee Zeldin to claim attacks on them are financed by organizations fronting for ultraliberal players like the Soros family. And it’s not unusual for liberals to claim conservative politicians like Zeldin are closely tied to hypercontroversial right-wing icons like Steve Bannon, the Breitbart.com head and sometime Svengali to President Donald Trump.
But it is unusual when both of those things are provably true.
Bannon is set to headline a fundraiser for Zeldin in Manhattan Dec. 14, with tickets starting at $1,000, and Zeldin introduced Bannon at a Zionist Organization of America event earlier this month.
Asked about his willingness to work with Bannon, whom many consider a conduit for “alt-right” and white supremacist views, Zeldin told The Point that he has bonded with Bannon over their shared service in the military and fierce support of Israel, as well as their shared opposition to Iran and to anti-Semitism on college campuses.
“We agree on some things and disagree on other things, and that is the beauty of life in this great country,” Zeldin said of the relationship.
On Monday, Bend the Arc Jewish Action — which describes itself as a “national organization inspired by Jewish values and the steadfast belief that Jewish Americans, regardless of religious or institutional affiliations, are compelled to create justice and opportunity for Americans” — hammered Zeldin for including Bannon in the fundraiser.
In a news release, the group said, “It is deeply disturbing that Rep. Zeldin would ally himself with this enemy of our community and its values.”
Zeldin is one of only two Jewish Republicans in the House.
Bend the Arc Jewish Action, a political action committee, was founded in 2015 and is chaired by Alexander Soros, son of billionaire financier and Democratic mega-donor George Soros.
So one year out from the 2018 elections, the most powerful forces in American politics are already massing in the Mastics.
Pass the popcorn, this could be a helluva show.
What will you do with your tax cut?
Click here to see more cartoons about the GOP tax plan.
Back to school
Islip Town had a problem. A month or so ago, it hired seven park rangers. But it couldn’t get them the necessary peace officer training because Suffolk County was not running its police academy anytime soon.
So Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter and Public Safety Commissioner Anthony D’Amico looked closer to home, and on Monday the town started its own peace officer training academy. D’Amico is a certified instructor, as are two other town officers who are teaching with him. They got fast-tracked state approval for an academy that includes the mandated 101 hours of training, plus Islip-specific topics.
“These guys are being instructed in town law, town protocol, practical situations they’re going to encounter in the town,” Carpenter told The Point.
Besides four Islip hires, the students include a newly hired park ranger from Smithtown Town who also needed training. In return, Carpenter said she plans to ask Smithtown to split the fee for required training in firearms, which town officials are not certified to handle.
“The governor is talking about shared services,” Carpenter said. “We’re doing it.”