Forget arguing about sound policy and lawmaking. If you aren’t a lock-step member of the Democratic Party you can get your proverbial thumbs broken.
That was the message last night at the Independent Neighborhood Democrats (IND) club meeting when members hammered State Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D-Central Brooklyn) and a representative of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, insisting they prove their loyalty to the Democratic Party.
Hamilton was particularly taken to task for his decision in 2016 to join the Independent Democratic Committee (IDC), a group of eight Democratic state senators who formed a coalition with the majority Republican senate.
Though the IDC has since disbanded, and its members, Hamilton included, have rejoined the Democrats, several of the meeting’s attendees and speakers expressed skepticism that Hamilton could be trusted to stick with the party.
“I ascribe to the fact that, when peace is made and people come home, we should all smile and not jeopardize that arrangement,” said one IND member. “I just want your commitment that no matter what happens, you’re gonna stick with the Democratic Conference, and you’re gonna make sure [we regain a majority]. And if it doesn’t happen this year, you keep fighting to get a Democratic majority in the state senate, because God knows I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to do that.”
Another member shouted at Hamilton for using “racially charged” language, after Hamilton made an offhand comment that he shouldn’t be “profiled” for the year and a half he spent as a member of the IDC. His complaints were disavowed by the other members of the IND.
Hamilton insisted that his progressive voting record speaks for itself, and said that he only defected to the Republicans as a means to endow himself with the power necessary to get progressive bills passed. In particular, he took credit for the passage of the Raise the Age law, which raised the minimum age at which juveniles are tried in adult criminal court from 16 to 18.
“I’m not with the Republicans. I just went to the majority side to get my bills passed,” said Hamilton. “If something’s wrong with that, then let me know.”
IND members also turned their ire on Sarah Pane, who came to the meeting representing Cuomo.
“Can you explain the governor’s lukewarm support to get Democratic candidates for State Senate in the past election – in 2016?” one of the members asked Paden. “Can you explain why he didn’t push for more challengers to get elected?”
Paden responded that she couldn’t give a definitive answer, since she wasn’t working for Cuomo at the time, but maintained that he has supported “many Democratic candidates” in the past few years.
A plethora of Democratic electeds and candidates showed up at the meeting to promote their candidacy, reflect on their recent accomplishments, and discuss the critical upcoming special election taking place this Tuesday.
Among those in attendance were Councilman and Lieutenant Governor candidate Jumaane Williams, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon and State Senators Kevin Parker, Velmanette Montgomery, Brian Kavanagh and Hamilton.
A variety of topics were discussed, ranging from gun violence to environmental protection to the reforms passed as part of this year’s budget. However, the one issue that dominated the evening was the special New York Senate election scheduled for April 24.
The election will fill two vacant seats in the Senate – one in District 37, and the other in District 32. The latter is expected to go to Democratic candidate Luis Sepulveda, but the former race, between Democratic candidate Shelley Mayer and Republican candidate Julie Killian, is looking to be far closer.
If Mayer wins, the Democrats will have just enough seats in the senate to secure a majority, providing that rogue Democrat Simcha Felder, who caucuses with senate Republicans, is swayed to return to the fold.
“I want to encourage everybody to help Shelley Mayer’s campaign,” said Simon. “They [the Republicans] are dumping a lot of money in this race. The NRA put $500,000 in Killian’s race two weeks ago. It is a very bitterly contested.”
Paden, speaking on behalf of Governor Cuomo, also stressed the importance of attaining a majority in the Senate, claiming that it will enable the Cuomo Administration to push several new progressive reforms through.
“There’s a couple of things we would really love to do if we had a fully Democratic senate,” said Paden. “One is codifying Roe v. Wade into state law; the other is making sure we get full comprehensive voting reform.”