Democrats may have won a numerical majority of 32 in the State Senate, with the 8th District victory of John Brooks over incumbent Republican Michael Venditto, but they will still not be the ones in power.
On Jan. 2 a group of seven Democratic senators, known as the Independent Democratic Conference, stated that it would caucus with Republicans to form a majority coalition.
“This bipartisan coalition will represent every county across New York, ensuring that every New Yorker has a voice in the Senate,” said Candice Giove, the director of communications for the IDC, in a statement.
Four Democrats formed the IDC in 2011 in response to partisanship. One year later, the IDC joined forces with Republicans when they failed to create a majority, under an agreement that the senate majority leader and the leader of the conference would share authority.
“They felt that … the Democrats who were controlling things in Albany were too left and too New York City centric, so they tried to carve out a middle ground and the Republicans were smart enough to make a deal with them when they absolutely needed the votes,” said Lawrence Levy, the executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.
As a result of the agreement, Republicans must moderate their legislation, which gives members of the IDC more influence on the legislative process than other Democrats.
“Think of it this way: if you are a part of a small group of people who are going to switch the power one way or another, you have more influence. Now, if you break away and vote against your interest and vote with the caucus, that is the Republican caucus, there is a lot more negotiation that has to happen to get legislation passed,” said Craig Burnett, an assistant political science professor at Hofstra University.
To regain their influence some Democrats urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to help unify senate Democrats, but Cuomo refused to get involved in senate affairs.
“We are very disappointed that they went with the Republicans. They should have stayed with the Democrats, especially in the time of Trump, when we have to see that New York state doesn’t go backwards,” said Lisa Tyson, the president of the Long Island Progressive Coalition.
Members of the IDC were not the only Democrats to align themselves with senate Republicans, however. In November, Sen. Simcha Felder, who represents parts of Brooklyn, announced on the television program “Capital Tonight” that he would continue to caucus with the Republicans as he had for the past four years.
With the help of these Democrats, Republicans have a comfortable margin to pass their legislation under Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.
Brooks will be sworn in as Senator for District 8 on Jan. 6.