In 2011, eight Democrats in the New York State Senate formed the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), which has allowed Republicans to maintain control of the chamber. Now, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has negotiated a deal to reunify the Democratic party.
The deal may impact how a state Senate race will play out in the 13th Senate District in Queens as incumbent Jose Peralta is facing Jessica Ramos, a Jackson Heights resident and former City Hall staffer.
Ramos announced her candidacy last January, on the one-year anniversary of Peralta’s IDC membership announcement. Though Cuomo has previously stated that he wanted IDC members and mainline Democrats to reunify, this deal may be different. Both Cuomo and most members of the IDC are facing primary challengers.
According to The New York Times, Cuomo discussed the reunification plan with Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and IDC Leader Jeff Klein at a steak house on April 3. Queens Congressman Joe Crowley was also in attendance.
The plan would make state Senator Stewart-Cousins the Democratic Leader and state Senator Klein would be her deputy. Stewart-Cousins asked to discuss the deal with her party, according to The New York Times, and a deal could be finalized as early as today.
If the deal is finalized, and Democrats win two special elections later this month, the number of Democrats in the Senate would be brought up to 32, giving the party a majority. But one of the Democratic state Senators who is not an IDC member, Brooklyn’s Simcha Felder, continues to caucus with Republicans.
In a letter to the IDC, Ramos and six other primary challengers wrote that “no Albany deal should or will prevent a competitive, healthy primary in which New Yorkers strongly consider your allegiance with the Republicans.”
“Since , we’ve had seven straight Republican budgets thanks to the IDC’s continued support for Republicans,” they wrote in the letter. “Because of your allegiance with the Republicans, the budget passed again this year with no Democratic state Senator at the negotiating table.”
The challengers also provided a list of 13 initiatives that they argue were ignored or “severely” underfunded in the budget, including criminal justice reform, the Child Victim’s Act, the DREAM Act, funding for the MTA, rent reform, gun control and more.
Ramos said she finds it “unfortunate” that the deal was agreed upon after the state budget was finalized.
“The damage is done,” she told QNS. “The IDC and the GOP power sharing agreement has resulted in years of regressive budget for the state of New York. Immigrants, children, seniors, working families are hurting and we remain focused on running a race that fights for working people.”
She argued that voters could not “trust these turncoat Democrats to deliver for working families” and that her campaign is committed to running the race.
“We are focused on reaching out to voters and letting them know everything that we’ve missed out on because we’re currently represented by a turncoat Democrat,” Ramos said.
Meanwhile, in the tentative agreement in November 2017, mainline Democrats agreed not to support primary challengers if the IDC rejoined the party.
After the deal was announced, Cuomo’s challenger Cynthia Nixon sent out an email with links to dozens of articles to argue that Cuomo had empowered Republicans throughout his tenure.
“If you’ve set your own house on fire and watched it burn for eight years, finally turning on a hose doesn’t make you a hero,” she said in a statement.
In February, Peralta told QNS that he thought a reunification plan was “very likely.”
Jennifer Blatus,a spokesperson for Peralta’s campaign, said the Senator’s “progressive agenda has never wavered.”
“At every turn, he has stuck by his values and fought for the betterment of immigrants, students, teachers, women, union members and working families,” she said. ‘The Democratic Party is united. Together they will represent the best interests of New Yorkers who are struggling in Trump’s America. Any suggestion otherwise would be a disrespect [to] the historic measures taken today.”