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NY Senate Dems reunite after years of schism

NY Senate Dems reunite after years of schism
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Two feuding factions of Democrats within the New York Senate have agreed to reconcile ahead of November’s election, reuniting a party that has been fractured for years.
 
The schism, which began just after Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) took office, had pitted a handful of independent Democrats led by state Sen. Jeffrey Klein against the mainline Democratic caucus, run by state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
 
Under the new agreement, Stewart-Cousins will become the sole leader of the Senate Democratic caucus. Klein will serve as her deputy.
 
“We are a house united, we stand, and we stand tall,” Stewart-Cousins said on Twitter. 

Klein’s faction, which calls itself the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), had caucused with Republicans, a move that handed them control of the upper chamber and gave them the opportunity to block elements of Cuomo’s agenda. They also gave Cuomo a convenient foil and a boogeyman against which to campaign.

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But both Cuomo and the IDC felt political pressures to reunite the party in the Trump era, when Democratic activists are demanding lockstep opposition to an unpopular president. Cuomo, who has faced criticism in the past for failing to unite the groups, now stares down a primary challenge from liberal activist and actor Cynthia Nixon. Several members of the independent caucus faced primary challenges from fellow Democrats.
 
The reunification will give Cuomo an opportunity to brag to Democratic voters, both as he runs for reelection this fall and as he prepares a likely presidential campaign in 2020. It will also relieve some pressure on those IDC members facing tough renomination fights.
 
The agreement had been months in the making, but it came to a head this week during a meeting in Manhattan involving Cuomo, Stewart-Cousins, Klein, top union officials and Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), the most powerful political boss left in New York, according to The New York Times.
 
Republicans still control 31 of the 63 seats in the state Senate, and a single Democrat caucuses with the GOP, giving them a one-seat majority. Mainline Democrats and the IDC control 29 seats. Two more seats are vacant. Those seats, one in the Bronx and one in Westchester County, will be filled in special elections later this month.
 
Democrats celebrated the reunification, even if it won’t deliver them the majority immediately.
 
“After years of Republicans voting against the will of their constituents and trying to turn back the clock on women’s rights, health care, environmental protections, and criminal justice reform, Leader Stewart-Cousins will now finally be empowered to use her leadership to unify state Democrats and pass meaningful and progressive legislation that will help all New Yorkers,” said Jessica Post, who heads the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
 
Stewart-Cousins and Post had been critical of Cuomo for letting the independent faction caucus with the GOP, in exchange for leadership positions. In an unusually pointed statement in December 2016, Post said Cuomo had “an obligation to stand up and ensure that the will of the voters is respected in the New York Senate.”