ALBANY – The upper and lower chambers of the New York State Legislature could soon be unified.
The two feuding factions of Democrats within the State Senate announced Wednesday they have agreed to reconcile ahead of November’s election, reuniting a party that has been fractured for years.
The schism, which began just after Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office, had pitted a handful of independent Democrats led by state Sen. Jeffrey Klein against the mainline Democratic caucus, run by state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
Under the new agreement, Stewart-Cousins will become the sole leader of the Senate Democratic caucus. Klein will serve as her deputy.
Klein’s faction, which calls itself the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), had caucused with Republicans, a move that handed them control of the upper chamber and gave them the opportunity to block elements of Cuomo’s agenda.
Both Cuomo and the independent Democrats felt political pressures to reunite the party in the Trump era, when Democratic activists are demanding lockstep opposition to an unpopular president.
The reunification will give Cuomo an opportunity to brag to Democratic voters, both as he runs for reelection this fall and as he prepares a likely presidential campaign in 2020.
Currently – Republicans still control 31 of the 63 seats in the state Senate, and a single Democrat caucuses with the GOP, giving them a one-seat majority. Mainline Democrats and the IDC control 29 seats. Two more seats are vacant.
As a result of the GOP controlling the Senate, Chautauqua County’s representative– Republican Sen. Cathy Young of Olean – became a high ranking member of the legislative body and served as the Senate’s Finance Committee Chair. With the Democrats reuniting, Young’s days in that important position could be numbered, but that would depend on whether or not the Democrats can regain full control of the Senate.
Democrats will get their first chance to regain control of the Senate later this month with two special elections – one in the Bronx and one in Westchester County. Both seats would need to be claimed by Democratic candidates in order for the party to gain control. It’s next opportunity to gain control would come during the November general election.