Savino: Senate Dem Conference Should Make Klein Chair


Senator Diane Savino (D-Coney Island/Staten Island) said today that the solution to the ongoing standoff between the Senate Democratic Conference and the Senate Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) is simple: replace the Senate Democratic Conference current Chair Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester County) with IDC Chair Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester).

Sen. Diane Savino

“If the Democrats really wanted to unite the Senate Democratic Conference they would make Jeff Klein the chair,” said Savino, one of the IDC founding members.. “He is the only one who knows how to raise money, has chips to negotiate with the Assembly, Senate and the governor, has the legislative track record that rivals anybody in public office, and knows how to protect marginal members and win races.

Savino noted that when she and Klein ran the Democratic campaign committee in 2007-08, they had a plan to win Democratic seats in rural and suburban areas of the state that are not traditionally Democratic.

“We busted our asses to convince people to invest in our candidacies and made sure we recruited good candidates and raised money,” recalled Savino.

Savino said this strategy worked and named several races in which Democrats won seats including Craig Johnson, the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Long Island in 25 years, Darrel J. Aubertine who won in the rural North Country region of the state, and Brian X. Foley, who in 2008 was the first Democatic State Senator elected from Sulfolk County since 1902. All three of these aforementioned seats have since again become Republican.

Sen. Kevin Parker

“We had the majority in 2008, but then it all fell apart starting with the first day of session in the majority conference room when we’re all sitting there going around the table saying who I am and where I’m from and they get to Brian Foley, who said he ran to get a property tax cap, and then it gets to [Senator] Kevin Parker and he says that property tax is a rich white issue and blacks don’t care about property taxes,” recalled Savino.

“But to keep a majority you have to protect people like Brian Foley. Over and over city members felt that city issues were more important and put the rural and suburban members at risk. At the end of the day, if you can’t protect marginal members and care about those issues, you can’t lead, and they [Senate Democratic Conference] still don’t get it. That’s why we didn’t win a single seat this year. What people don’t understand about the local legislature is you can’t run a national agenda in a local senate race.

“They [Senate Democratic Conference] are dismissive of areas even in the city like Staten Island where I come from. They make like we should be cut off and float away to the sea. And they’re that way to South Brooklyn, too,” she added.

Savino made her comments following a KCP post late yesterday detailing the issues surrounding the two Democratic conferences differences, in which the IDC is in a coalition with the Republican Conference.

The post also highlights allegations of how the more left-leaning progressive arm of the Democratic Party continues to protest those Democrats in the IDC, particularly the black and Latino members, into coming back in the fold.

The turmoil between the two Democratic conferences comes as the National Democratic Party tries to regroup having lost the White House, both chambers of Congress and a lot of ground in state elections around the country in the recent November election.

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