Last week, the Rev. Al Sharpton told NY State Senate Democrats who are independent not to screw things up, saying, "If the vote places Democrats in the majority, Democrats should have the leadership. Who those leaders should be is best left to those Democratic Senators." But the latest chatter from Albany has it that Sharpton's interference might push some of those Democrats towards the GOP. Update below: Sharpton's spokeswoman has responded, questioning the motivations of a Post columnist.
The Democrats technically won control of the Senate, with 33 members in power, but the Daily News notes that there are "four breakaway Democrats who formed their own independent caucus," plus newly elected Senator Simcha Felder, who are undecided. According to the Post, "Sources said state Sen. Malcolm Smith of Queens, who served as the Democratic Senate majority leader in 2009 until he was ousted and then replaced during a bitter 'coup' mounted by Republicans and two renegade Democrats, was 'open' to helping the GOP keep control of the Senate. Smith, who has talked with Republican leaders about running as the GOP candidate for mayor next year, 'is open and willing to listen to what the Republicans have to say,' said a source close to the situation."
One Democratic official complained to the Post's Fred Dicker about Sharpton's statement: "How stupid was that? It was unbelievable... The last time I checked, Al Sharpton was a paid member of the media, and he’s trying to determine who the next Senate leader is going to be? That suggests that most of the Senate Democrats are ready to once again be beholden to outside influence peddlers like Al Sharpton."
State Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), who heads up the four-person Democratic independent caucus, has met with Republican State Senate Majority Leader (for now) Dean Skelos; he hasn't met with the Democratic leader yet.
Update: Rachel Noerdlinger, Sharpton's spokeswoman, tells us:
One, Mr. Dicker made the entirely false assumption that Rev. Sharpton was meeting to support an individual candidate. He is not supporting any one candidate. The collective was meeting and still will privately to urge to Blacks and Latinos not to fight among each other and to make allowances for conservative Democrats as has been done on the national level so the majority can be maintained. Rev. Sharpton supported most of the Senate Democrats and is appealing to them to not be so inflexible that they can't agree on whomever is chosen.
Secondly, in reference to the comment that Rev. Sharpton is a paid member of the media, why is he being singled out? Like Rev. Sharpton, Fox News Channel's Mike Huckabee has his own television show and he was a main speaker at the Republican National Convention. What bars a TV host from working to a unify his or her party? The same entity that owns Fox News Channel owns the New York Post where Mr. Dicker works. There should be the same set of standards.
In other words, it's on!