The Obligatory Coup Piece
I really was trying to take a respite this week and just attend parties, figuring that I’d round up my Facebook posts in one weekend Gateway piece.
But then came the Sen Dem coup (Actually, it's not the real Coup, which was pulled off by Jeff Klein; it's more like the fight to be Mayor of the Leper Colony).
To make matters more difficult, Colin linked one of my Facebook posts about it, and I felt obligated to post the comment here as well before it got too cold:.
“19-6 for Stewart-Cousins. In the end, Sampson could only manage the same level of support among Sen Dems as Dean Skelos.” http://mobile.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/nyregion/senate-democrats-in-albany-replace-their-leader.xml?f=22
Of course, having lived through a coup myself, I can tell you that once the end result becomes apparent, everyone scurries away like rats jumping from a sinking ship.
Back in 2002, when David Paterson couped Marty Connor, Ruben Diaz who, say what you will (and I’ve said it all), has about as strong and reckless a sense of loyalty as anyone in politics (actually, that sells his loyalty short) held on even after Connor had withdrawn. I hear he even yelled at the other members of the Conference.
In 2008, Diaz asked Connor what he could do to help his re-election and Connor told him to start a picket line in front of his building.
I can’t tell you exactly how this one played out (though one can surmise), though Diaz is now telling tales out of school, and at least some of what he says bears the indicia of accuracy.
Notable was the absence from the vote of Kevin Parker, who never shies from a fight, unless it actually matters.
Mindy Meyer would be proud
My big frustration here is that I didn’t say earlier what I’d been thinking all along, though I’d telegraphed the punch at least once:
GATEMOUTH (5/29/12): Stewart-Cousins or Gianaris might help improve the Sen Dems' image; Hassell-Thompson not so much.
Thanks in large part to the Governor, who really could have found a highly qualified minority candidate for LG if he wanted (he was not restricted to members of the legislature), the only African American in a prominent elected leadership position in New York State Government (if one doesn’t resort to naming legislative committee chairs) was John Sampson.
As Al Sharpton was already reminding us, there would be hell to pay if a person of any other color was installed as Senate Dem Leader.
And frankly, given the importance of black votes to the Democrats, it is hard to blame the black political establishment for feeling this way.
No one talks tokenism or affirmative action when you bring up Bob Duffy or Kirsten Gillibrand, even though upstate votes are a lot less important to NYS Democrats than black votes.
But looking through the black members of the NYS Senate is not a trip which conjures up visions of future Barack Obamas.
Sampson, Malcolm Smith (no longer really a Democrat) and Eric Adams are all embroiled in “Racetrack Empire” (which may actually be the least of Smith’s ethical problems).
In addition, Adams, a former Gingrich Republican is hardly the poster child for a group intent upon enforcing Party loyalty. Not to mention his unseemly friendship with Hiram Monserrate and his embarrassing Cuba Gooding impersonations.
Kevin Parker is a thug and a public embarrassment, whose best talking point is he once threatened an IDC member with violence (although is likely a poor selling point to getting them back into the fold). At a time when the Board of Elections is almost literally under siege, Bill Perkins’ career is a living reminder of why this is so.
(Though, to be fair, in a body which produced Joe Bruno, Guy Velella, Vinnie Leibell, Carl Kruger, Pedro Espada, Hiram Monserrate and Efrain Gonzalez, they really don't look half bad).
I love Velmanette Montgomery, but even those who love her know that her best days are long behind her. At best, she is a good supporting player, but she is no leader. James Sanders just got elected, and as an opponent of same sex marriage, alienates key party constituencies.
And Ruth Hassell-Thompson’s reputation for being “difficult” (a very kind euphemism) is such that one can read Ruben Diaz making this complaint, and nod one’s head without even noting the irony.
One notes that Hassell-Thompson, one of John Sampson’s last six votes, was one of the few members of the conference (the only other one I recall is Kevin Parker) to publicly put forth their names as a Sampson replacement before the leadership vote.
By contrast, Stewart-Cousins, a suburbanite, whose district was 43% white (and was recently more so) and 17% black, and presents a very good public face, was the ideal candidate to be put forth by white Senators looking for a black frontperson.
She was pretty much the only choice.
The scenario is a familiar one. A group of white Senators want to coup the leader, but know it doesn’t quite add up for them
In 2002, it was Marty Connor, whose strongest supporters included most of the minority Senators.
But the 2002 defeat of State Comptroller Carl McCall left the NYS Dems without a high statewide black elected official. Seeing the opportunity, the white rebels convinced Marty Connor’s Deputy, David Paterson, to challenge him for the leadership. Paterson was such a reluctant player that after he had it virtually in his pocket, he succumbed to pressure and sent out a letter saying he was not a candidate and supported Connor.
But between his white supporters and the pushing (and arm-twisting) of Al Sharpton and others in the community, Paterson became leader, fronting for the likes of Liz Krueger and Eric Schneiderman (I really should do a piece on this, and maybe I will over the holidays).
This year, the victim was black, and the vote combination was quite different, but once again someone black was fronting for Liz Kruger, this time in tandem with Mike Gianaris.
I’ve been saying it should be Stewart-Cousins for months, I kick myself for not printing it.
The only problem is they should have done it months ago. Now, it’s almost pointless. At this point, I think they might have saved more face sticking with Sampson.
Which is probably the prime reason I didn’t post it last week, even though I’ve been saying it at all the best parties.
I can’t disagree with the assertion that Stewart-Cousins presents a better image for the Sen Dems, and image is a big part of their problem. But, I suspect that, at best, this move will just mask the Conference's racial tensions, and, at worst, will make them worse.
Moreover, unless Stewart-Cousins offers to make Jeff Klein the Senate's sole President Pro Tem, she isn’t getting the IDC to organize with the Democrats.
And, I don’t think Stewart-Cousins will get Simcha Felder’s vote for the Dems even if she promises to ban pork (and I don’t mean member items).
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