Watch the Independent Caucus

In New York, democrats control the Statehouse and are firmly in control in the Assembly. After controlling the Senate since 1965, Republicans narrowly lost control in 2008, and narrowly won control back this past election.
Now, Senator Jeff Klein, a democrat from the Bronx, is leading a four member caucus of democrats that call themselves the Independent Caucus. Other Senate democrats are labeling Klein and his merry band as traitors to the Democratic Party. Which makes one wonder, with the power structure in Albany tilted towards the democrats, what is the advantage for Klein to come out so decisively in the middle?
The answer may be as simple as credibility. Klein has been thought to have potential for higher office. And, since taking control of the Senate, the democrats have hardly conducted themselves with respectability.
Almost immediately upon taking control, disgruntled members like Pedro Espada extorted the leadership for more. And, desperate to hold onto their slim majority, democratic leaders basically gave away the store to these extortionists, setting in motion two years of endless bickering, infighting and competition for perks and power.
To his shame, Klein was in the leadership during this unfortunate episode. After losing control, Klein was again offered a position with the leadership, as Deputy Minority Leader. However, the shameless way the democrats conducted themselves while in the majority, coupled with the newly discovered fact that they overspent their own conference budget by millions of dollars to make the deals that kept their majority intact, Klein and others had had enough.
What Senate democrats proved over the last two years was that they were more interested in having power and holding power than in using their power to address the needs of the state. While Governor Paterson grappled with a collapsing state economy, a budget running out of control by billions of dollars, and special interests blocking every plan to resolve our fiscal crises, Senate democrats were consumed with their own internal turmoil.
This makes Klein’s move very understandable. It is a way for him and Senators David Carlucci, Diane Savino and David Valesky to distance themselves from the disaster of the last two years and try to establish a democratic caucus in the Senate that solves problems instead of creating them.
They can work with Dean Skelos and the republican majority to make sure that Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers on his promises, and is not undermined by the legislature the same way that David Paterson was.

Robert Hornak is a Queens-based political consultant and an active member of the Queens Republican Party.

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