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State Senate Leader Reportedly Confronts Cuomo: You 'Don't See Me' Because I'm A Black Woman

When you're ready to drive a bargain. Get it? You get it.
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When you're ready to drive a bargain. Get it? You get it. Governor's Office

Hey, remember that whole thing about how Andrew Cuomo wants to drive FDR's car around America in the country's real Wacky Race (I'm talking about the presidential election, folks)? It would be kind of awkward if he ran on the idea that he was a Democrat Who Got Things Done while two warring factions of Democrats duked it out on the floor of the state Senate. So, and this time he's for real about it don't laugh, Andrew Cuomo is going to unite the Democratic Party in state Senate. Hey, you back there rolling your eyes, quit it.

The Times took a look at Cuomo's recent efforts to try to bridge the divide between mainline Democrats and the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of eight state Senate Democrats who help Senate Republicans claim a majority in the chamber. The governor's impact so far is...well, not great, Bob. For one, the Governor reportedly bungled a Midtown meeting of the Democratic minds when he told Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (who represents Westchester) that Senator Jeff Klein of the IDC (whose membership is heavily skewed towards the city) knows more about winning suburban elections. Cousins's response, according to multiple sources in the room was:

You look at me, Mr. Governor, but you don’t see me. You see my black skin and a woman, but you don’t realize I am a suburban legislator. Jeff Klein doesn’t represent the suburbs. I do.

Stewart-Cousins and a Cuomo spokesperson both downplayed the incident at the meeting, which the same sources told the Times was "profound" and left the governor in "stunned silence."

Even as pressure has been building on the IDC from a variety of quarters including grassroots activists, other breakaway Democrats and the national Democratic Party, Cuomo has kept his distance from the fray. Confronted by an activist earlier this summer, Cuomo was non-committal about getting the mainline Democrats and IDC members back together, telling the man, "I can perform marriages, but I can't force them" (which is a line he'd used before).

Any potential reunion is also complicated by the efforts of activists dedicated to removing IDC members from the state Senate. Jose Peralta already has a teen challenger for his seat in Taseen Chowdhury, and recruitment efforts are afoot for primaries against the seven other members of the conference. A spokesperson for the anti-IDC organizing group No IDC sent Gothamist a statement slamming both Cuomo and the IDC:

Today's story is just more proof that the 8 "IDC" State Senators are totally bought off by Trump Republicans. It's also proof that Governor Cuomo is deeply complicit in the IDC's scam.

In every conversation we've had with real Senate Democrats, in public and private, they've been willing to work with every Senator to protect our rights. The real Senate Democrats recognize the threat that Trump Republicans pose to New York. The Times article shows that the real Senate Democrats have come to the table in good faith and remained open to working with the IDC at every turn. Of course, the IDC has continued backing their Republican bosses and donors on every issue, from refusing to make New York a sanctuary state, to blocking fair funding for New York public schools.

The IDC has shown us for 7 years now that they won't act like Democrats. They're bought and paid for by the Republicans. And that's why No IDC NY is committed to the only path forward to progressive government in New York: We're working to raise awareness and raise money to replace all 8 members of the crooked IDC.

And of course, there's the matter of Klein and Stewart-Cousins not exactly getting along. Last year, both members of the state Senate expressed extreme frustration with the other in interviews with Gothamist. Klein, talking about the mainline Democrats, said "if you're serious about a coalition, the way to do it is not to ask everyone under the sun to force us back. They play everything out in the press." Stewart-Cousins, for her part, charged that separately rogue Democrat Simcha Felder, who caucuses with the Republicans currently, told her he tried to bring the IDC back with him but no one from the group would do it.

Furthermore, if the IDC continued to exist in a coalition with the mainline Democrats, it would mean that Klein and Stewart-Cousins would have to come to a kind of power sharing agreement, denting the historic marker of Stewart-Cousins becoming the state Senate's first black female leader.

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