Jeff Klein and democratic missteps
By Matthew Dondiego
In 2011, in the aftermath of an embarrassing coup that saw two Senate Democrats cross party lines to return control of their chamber to the Republicans, Bronx Democrat Jeff Klein formed a coalition of breakaway Democrats, citing his conferences dysfunction and claiming a bipartisan effort was needed to unclog the political muck clogging up the state Legislature.
The Independent Democratic Conference has since grown to be the most coveted vote in all of state government, as Klein — now the Senate co-Leader alongside Long Island Republican Dean Skelos — made a power-sharing agreement to alternate Senate presidency and control of what legislation was brought to a vote on the Senate floor.
Sen. Klein’s breakaway coalition, he insisted, had nothing to do with a power thirst that would only be quenched by becoming the Democratic leader. Klein said he hoped his group to be “to be influential, yes, but influential on policy,” continuing “We’re not empowering a Republican majority; we’re talking about a coalition government, I consider myself a very good Democrat.”
A very good democrat who’s not empowering the Senate Republicans is exactly the opposite of what Jeff Klein has become.
First, this move was obviously about power. Klein was the deputy leader in the Senate and upon realizing he would be passed over for leader decided to make a leadership position for himself. Klein also seems to take no responsibility for the dysfunction in a Senate chamber where he was the second ranking member.
Second, the IDC — also including Democratic Sens. David Valesky, David Carlucci, and Diane Savino — at one point welcome Sen. Malcolm Smith, the former Democratic leader and president who was overthrown during the 2009 coup.
One could certainly argue that Smith, who has since been found attempting to bribe his way onto the Republican ticket for New York City mayor, joined with the breakaway coalition because he knew it was the closest thing to being at the top again — a prominent voice in what would prove to be the most powerful faction in the Senate.
The creation of the IDC has power hungry written all over it.
Klein says he’s not empowering a Republican majority, noting the same-sex marriage bill passed while the Senate was under Republican — not Democratic — control.
However, Klein fails to point out that Sen. Pedro Espada, one of the party-hopping Democrats, was a sponsor on the gay marriage legislation — a crucial point. While claiming a bipartisan coalition government was the answer, Klein decided to take a back seat on many progressive bills, bills a “very good Democrat” would never have let die, such as the women’s equality act or the fracking moratorium bill. No, Jeff Klein is not empowering a Senate Majority; he is simply letting them roll him over. The “Senate co-leader”, an apparently empty title, instead constantly bends to Skelos’ legislative will, compromising Democratic values to hang a “Temporary Senate President” plaque outside of his 4th floor office.
Sen. Klein has said “I think we can actually show that our democracy in New York State does not have to be chaotic.” Well good job ol’ boy because it’s certainly not chaotic, well at least not compared to a Senate leader being overthrown by his own party members. But the Senate is only less chaotic because Skelos and Klein simply don’t let anything move forward.
Now, with the IDC and the mainline Democrats waging war on each other, preparing to primary Senate hopefuls to pit against one another, state residents can be sure that Klein and his gang of Democratic turncoats will block progressive legislation even more so than before.
And while Klein plays pretend president in the Senate, hardworking Democrats and an overwhelmingly blue New York suffer.