A veteran lobbyist’s take on the new state legislative landscape

Sid Davidoff
Sid Davidoff
Scott Roth/Invision/AP/Shutterstock
Sid Davidoff

A veteran lobbyist’s take on the new state legislative landscape

A Q&A with Davidoff Hutcher and Citron’s Sid Davidoff.
December 26, 2018

Sid Davidoff got his start in politics under former New York City Mayor John Lindsay, and brings a historical perspective to New York politics that many of us Johnny-come-latelys could only dream of. City & State caught up with Davidoff to get the long view on the idiosyncrasies of the upcoming state legislative session.

You’re a registered lobbyist in Albany. What are you going to be looking at as the session opens?

It’s going to be an interesting time. It’s hard to predict. In the Senate, you have 63 members. Forty are Democrats, 23 Republicans. And of those, there are 15 new Democrats and two new Republicans. Several have never been in elected office before. So it’s really very hard to predict where they’re going. A Democrat from upstate isn’t necessarily going to be consistent with the same interests as a Democrat from Brooklyn or Queens. We’re certainly going to swing much more progressive. Much more unity, we think, between the Assembly and the state Senate. That makes a lot of sense. You don’t have the Republican majority holding hostage a lot of legislation. And the governor has already indicated he’s looking forward to this swing to the left. So I think there has to be some concern in the real estate market that we don’t go too far.

Your job is partly to predict what’ll happen. Does it feel like there’s more uncertainty this session?

Campaign rhetoric and actually what happens once you’re elected and serving is very different. The campaign rhetoric gives you a certain amount of knowledge that you can predict, but it’s not a true indicator. Because once you’re in there, you’re starting your committees, you go through the learning process with such a large number of people that are new to us in a lot of ways – it’ll take a learning curve on both sides. It’s very hard to predict. But there’s no doubt it’s going to be a more progressive legislative session than it has in the past.

You mentioned 40 Democrats. Do you know which party state Sen. Simcha Felder will conference with?

He didn’t get a chairmanship. So he’s almost irrelevant. It doesn’t matter where he goes. It isn’t like he’s sitting in that seat where he can hold up a budget because he’s the swing vote. And it doesn’t look like the Democrats wanted to make a lot of peace with him, since he didn’t get a chairmanship. It’s really up to him now. I don’t think anybody’s coming to him. When you have that much of a majority, one vote here and there is not going to matter.

Will Democrats have more freedom to vote apart from the majority then?

It’s too early to tell. On things like the MTA, you don’t necessarily have a consistent view between a Democrat from the boroughs and a Democrat from up in Rockland County. And I don’t think it’s a question of whether you have the ability to let a few votes go – maybe that’s the case. But you’re going to have different interests here, and it’ll be interesting to see how that’s dealt with in the caucus.

Everyone seems to think, and rightly so, that (state Senate Majority Leader) Andrea Stewart-Cousins is going to be an effective leader. So she’ll have to deliver the votes. But there is a comfort level in knowing that you don’t need every vote. For leadership, that is important.

That’s the Senate. Is anything going to be different in the Assembly?

There won’t be much change. (Assembly Speaker) Carl Heastie has been an established leader for several years now and there’s nothing happening there that indicates a big swing. It’s easier for him in a lot of ways because he’s going to have a Democratic counterpart who thinks a lot like he does.

Jeff Coltin
is a senior reporter at City & State. He covers New York City Hall.