By Alex Robinson
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has pledged to stay with his colleagues in the Independent Democratic Conference despite recent hints the breakaway group might rejoin the GOP, which regained control of the Senate.
“Let there be no confusion: I stand with the IDC,” Avella said in a statement. “While I’m greatly disappointed with the overall results of the election, I look forward to continuing to work with my IDC colleagues in the upcoming session.”
IDC head, state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), recently said he would be open to working with the Republicans, igniting speculation as to whether Avella would stay with the faction.
The IDC previously controlled power of the state Senate in a coalition with Republicans, but the GOP no longer needs the five rogue Democratic senators to hold onto power, having won 32 seats for a majority in the chamber in last week’s election.
When faced with primary challenges this summer, Klein and the IDC struck a deal to form a new coalition with the state Senate’s Democratic leadership, but Klein has since backed away from the deal.
Questions then arose concerning comments Avella made at a Bay Terrace candidate’s forum during his tight primary challenge from former city Comptroller John Liu.
When asked at the forum if he would stay with the IDC if the group rejoined the Republicans, Avella said, “No, and I’ve already stated this publicly.” He then spoke about why he joined the IDC before adding, “The answer is yes, because … in fact we already had a discussion about this. If the Democrats can have a majority with the IDC and we don’t go back, than we’re not Democrats. And I’m a Democrat. That’s my commitment and I’ve already said it publicly.”
The state senator, who bolted to the IDC in February, provoking the ire of the Queens Democratic Party, said his comments were taken out of context in published reports.
The mainline Democratic leadership in the state Senate has been cautiously quiet about Klein’s suggestions that he would be open to rejoining Republicans.
“We always want Democrats to sit with other Democrats,” a Democratic source said. “It makes the party stronger and not doing that raises serious questions.”
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.