By former Assmeblyman Steven Sanders
Brooklyn State Senator Simcha Felder is a Democrat. But for reasons best known to him, he has been caucusing with the Republicans in Albany to help enable that Party to maintain control of the State Senate in spite of having fewer members than the Democrats.
But that’s not where the story ends. Last month, the seven Democratic members who have made up the so called “Independent Democratic Caucus” for the past number of years, reluctantly returned to the reservation. That leaves the Senate composition at 32 Democrats and 31 Republicans. Governor Cuomo for years tacitly accepted that odd political marriage because he felt it worked to his advantage. He no longer thinks so. He has been pressured from the left, and from his primary opponent Cynthia Nixon, to stand up for Democrats. So he suddenly got involved and brokered a deal amongst the Senate Democrats.
But with Felder’s continued affiliation with the Republicans, they will maintain Senate control for the rest of this year. In exchange for Mr. Felder’s support, the Republicans have given him legislative perks and pivotal voting deference. But as the current session winds down and the November elections loom large and soon, Mr. Felder’s political strategy may need rethinking.
There are now five Republican incumbent senators who have announced their retirement. And at least four of those seats are winnable for the Democrats this year. They only need to win one to control the Senate next year regardless of what Mr. Felder does, assuming he can win reelection. Should that occur Mr. Felder will find his influence reduced to zero since the Democrats won’t need him and the Republicans can no longer use him to boost their majority control of the House.
So Senator Felder, who today sits in the driver’s seat, may soon find himself in the caboose. However, for the time being, as Republicans continue to control the Senate, they maintain decision making over the flow of legislation and as such will continue to keep bottled up pro-tenant and pro-consumer bills some of which are of great importance to Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper residents. Felder’s peculiar alignment with the Republican Party has real consequences for public policy.
Politics is a lot like poker. You get dealt a hand and then you try to improve upon it and then decide whether to continue to play or not. It’s time for Senator Felder to fold.