What does the Democrats’ ‘unity’ deal mean for tenants?

Apr12 Cousins Cuomo Klein

Senate Democrat Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Governor Andrew Cuomo and former Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein (Photo courtesy of governor’s office)

Following what is being touted as Senate Democratic chamber reunification, Town & Village reached out to Michael McKee of TenantsPAC. He outlined the scenario as it is likely to play out in an op-ed while also sharing his thoughts on the reason for the governor’s sudden insistence on reunification.

“Everything comes down to two words. Cynthia Nixon,” said McKee. “Andrew’s scared to death and trying to hide it and he’s not fooling anyone.”

As for the Independent Democratic Conference’s sudden demise, read on, but, warned McKee, “We’ve been down this road before.”

 

By Michael McKee, treasurer, Tenants Political Action Committee

In a stunning development, Governor Andrew Cuomo has persuaded Jeff Klein and his fellow turncoat members of the Independent Democratic Conference not only to rejoin the mainstream Democratic conference but also to dissolve the IDC.

This is a huge political defeat for Jeff Klein, who up to now has insisted that while he was open to a reunification deal, the IDC would continue as a separate conference and he would be co-leader with Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

Now he has agreed to disband the IDC, and accept a lower position as Andrea’s deputy.

Why? Because Andrew Cuomo, Jeff Klein, and the other turncoat senators are scared of losing their jobs this year. This is a perfect illustration of how grassroots political pressure can produce results. While Klein and Cuomo are desperate to lessen the pressure on them, we need to keep the pressure on – and increase it.

There are now many uncertainties:

(1) Will the mainstream Democrats agree to this deal? They met Thursday to discuss it.

(2) Will Simcha Felder, a “Democrat” who is not an IDC member and who has always conferenced with the Republicans, agree to join the Democrats? Today Felder stated that he will not make any decision until after the April 24 special elections; in fact, if the Democrats lose the Westchester seat, the GOP will have a more solid majority.

(3) Is Andrew Cuomo finally serious about electing a clear state Senate Democratic majority in November? Will he, for example, write a $10 million check (out of the $31 million he now has in his campaign treasury) to the Senate Democrats? Don’t hold your breath on that one.

Note that if the Democrats hold the Westchester seat, and if Simcha Felder joins them, they will have a bare 32-31 majority in a chamber where 32 votes are needed to pass anything.

Many Democrats fear that this could be a move by Andrew Cuomo &\and Jeff Klein to set a trap for Andrea Stewart-Cousins and the mainstream Dems: give them a bare 32-vote majority with Simcha Felder and one or two other wild cards in the conference, leading to a replay of the 2009-2010 scenario when the Democrats had a 32-30 majority and struggled to assemble 32 votes for anything.

You can write the headlines now: “Here we go again,” the “dysfunctional Democrats,” unable to agree on anything, unable to count to 32, unable to govern, etc. This could be a stealth plan by the two most Machiavellian politicians in Albany to hurt our chances for a blue wave in November.

Basically, the mainstream Dems do not trust Cuomo or Klein, and neither should we. Jeff Klein is a real estate operative, flush with campaign contributions from landlords and developers, as well as the hedge fund billionaires behind the attacks on our public education system.

Some do not believe that there is any chance that Simcha Felder will agree to sit with the Democrats, which will leave John Flanagan in control with 31 Republicans and Felder.

In that case, nothing really changes except that Jeff and his fellow IDC members return to the minority; the IDC dissolves, and the IDC members lose all the perks they have enjoyed for betraying the progressive cause for the last seven years.

The saving grace for Jeff Klein, even if he goes back to the minority, is that he gets to replace his bitter enemy Mike Gianaris as Andrea’s deputy leader.

If all this comes together so that the Democrats have a bare 32-vote majority, we must be prepared to apply constant, unrelenting pressure on them to pass pro-tenant bills before the session ends in June. This will be an uphill battle but one that we cannot afford to sit out.

There will be many things they will be trying to pass, from election reforms to women’s health issues to the DREAM Act to justice for victims of child sex abuse. But we must make sure that the Dems do not overlook our legislation. With Jeff Klein as Deputy Majority Leader, he will work to stop our bills from coming to the floor, as he did in 2009-2010 when he was Deputy Majority Leader to Malcolm Smith and John Sampson.

If the GOP remains in control with only the 32 votes needed to pass anything, it makes sense to continue our current strategy.

Whatever happens, we must keep the pressure on the IDC senators. They have done enormous damage to tenants and affordable housing in the last seven years.

And no one should think that Andrew Cuomo has had a change of heart on pro-tenant legislation, or on measures to reverse the hemorrhage of affordable housing we are experiencing across the state. Andrew Cuomo is the greatest beneficiary of landlord cash in Albany, even greater than the Senate Republicans. He is not going to alienate his landlord supporters, whom he very much wants to support his run for president, by pushing for our priorities. He must be forced to act, and the only way to force him to act is to oppose him and embarrass him.

P.S. Tenants need to make electing Shelley Mayer to the Westchester County state senate seat a big priority. Shelley has been a great tenant supporter in the state assembly. If tenants only do lobbying and organizing and do not help elect better legislators, we will never get to where we need to be in Albany. Tenants PAC is recruiting volunteers to go to Westchester on Tuesday, April 24 to help get out the vote for Shelley. This race is all about turnout, and GOTV volunteers are urgently needed. Transportation will be provided. Email me at mmckee@tenantspac if you can help for all or some of the day.

 

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One thought on “What does the Democrats’ ‘unity’ deal mean for tenants?

  1. If a coalition is actually effected, tenant groups like Met Council & others can take credit for starting to inform voters exactly what the IDC has been up to.

    Little of this matters if John Flanagan remains Senate Majority Leader, and that happened because Brooklyn (Borough Park) Democratic Senator Simcha Felder voted for him. And that gave the GOP a majority.

    I don’t know what causes another vote, but all eyes should be on the IDC and Felder. If they don’t vote for Stewart-Cousins, expect little change.

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