It’s just weeks after Election Day 2012 and—as can only be expected in the madhouse that is Albany—there is no clear way to determine who will control the New York State Senate.
Many times math and logic just don’t go hand-in-hand in the Capitol. As it stands now, Democrats won 32 of the 63 State Senate seats, with the 46th Senate District still undecided. Logic would dictate that even if the seat went Republican, the Democrats would still hold a 32–31 majority and we would all be on our merry way.
Not so fast.
To date, the result in the race between Republican George Amedore and Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk in the 46th is still uncertain and, if history is any indication, headed for a lengthy counting process, the ultimate outcome of which we may not know for a couple of months.
Now it gets even quirkier. Should the Republican win that seat, state Senator-elect Simcha Felder, a conservative Democrat who has announced that he will conference with the GOP, would tip the majority to Leader Dean Skelos and his conference by a 32–31 margin.
Then there’s former Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, a Democrat who has indicated his interest in running for mayor of the City of New York on the Republican line. If he were to flip to the GOP column, as has been speculated, the Republicans would hold power, regardless of whether Amedore can make up the 139 votes by which he currently trails from the 10,867 absentee ballots yet to be tallied.
If you think this sounds like a bad game of political musical chairs, you would be right. Currently we have a bunch of senators walking around in circles hoping to get the best possible chair when the music stops or, in this case, when the last vote is counted in the 46th Senate District.
The good news is that all this drama doesn’t have to matter—nor should it. There is no need to wait for the outcome of the Amedore–Tkaczyk race to move forward.
Enter the four members of the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC): Senators Jeffrey Klein, Diane Savino, David Carlucci and David Valesky. It was recently reported that the head of the IDC, Senator Klein, met with Majority Leader Skelos to discuss some form of coalition government.
Senators Skelos and Klein may be onto something.
While it may be a sore subject, it is worth looking back to those heady days in June and July of 2009 after the Senate leadership coup. At the time there was a serious effort to end the standoff by coming up with some sort of compromise. As a result, the “Bipartisan Operating Agreement,” a power-sharing accord advanced by leaders on both sides of the aisle, became a jumping off point for a deal, but the crisis ended before it could fully take shape and the idea of a coalition government wound up going nowhere.
Now is the perfect moment to revisit this sensible approach.
The IDC has shown that though it is a small conference, it is disproportionately influential and, more importantly, has the ability to maintain its internal cohesiveness and the mutual respect of its members even when they have substantive disagreements and vote differently on some issues.
Also of note is the fact that the IDC’s members do not represent just one part of the state. Though Klein and Savino are both from New York City, Carlucci represents Orange and Rockland counties, while Valesky’s district ranges across several counties in the central portion of the state. By working together on city, suburban and upstate issues, the IDC has broadened its credibility and scope and made joining its ranks more appealing to potential new members.
Were the Republicans and the IDC to join forces to form a government that represents not just the interest of one party but all New Yorkers, we might begin to see the end of the perennial dysfunction that cripples Albany.
Coalition governance should not be viewed as finding the last chair when the music stops but as a vital opportunity to finally turn around the state Legislature and embark upon a brighter future.
Let our senators begin charting this new course today. There’s no time to lose.
Susan Del Percio is a New York-based Republican consultant and founder of Susan Del Percio Strategies, a full-service strategic communications firm.
Tags: 46th Senate District, Capitol, Cecilia Tkaczyk, coup, David Carlucci, David Valesky, Dean Skelos, Democrat, Diane Savino, Election Day, george amedore, IDC, Independent Democratic Conference, Jeff Klein, Malcolm Smith, Republican, state senate