At Tuesday’s constitutional convention town hall in St. Albans, an audience question prompted state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) to rip into his colleagues who have chosen to take part in the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC).
“The IDC is an independent and selfish caucus of people who decided they didn’t want to see a minority majority led caucus,” Comrie said. “We are now mostly minorities in the Democratic state senate.”
Comrie criticized State Sen. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) for jumping ship after Democrats lost seats in the 2012 elections under his leadership. He accused Klein of not wanting to serve under the current leader of the Democrats in the state senate.
“Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) is a proud, intelligent black woman who could be governor of this state,” Comrie said.
“But because he didn’t want to work under her leadership, he broke out with the help of the [Republican] administration. I’m just being frank here.”
The IDC has been the subject of much controversy in recent years. The conference consists of eight Democrats who are in coalition with Republicans in the state senate. The conference essentially gives Republicans more power in Albany by making them the senate majority. But IDC members are considered democrats as the conference is not recognized as a political party by the state.
Comrie pointed out that many of the senators who have joined the IDC since Klein founded the caucus in 2010 are only doing it so “they can still get dollars for their districts.”
“One of the biggest things that I keep telling you guys is that I have no discretionary money because I’m in the minority, and I’m pissed about that,” Comrie said. “It’s just ridiculous that these [IDC] people have aligned themselves with the Republicans so they can get money. That’s the only reason they’re doing it. It’s not because of any base politics that they’re involved in because they don’t support the Republican agenda.”
One of Queens’ senators who most recently joined the IDC, State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), told the PRESS of Southeast Queens in May that he signed on to do just that.
“Having a seat has allowed me to pass bills I’ve never passed before,” Peralta said. “I’ve not only secured budget dollars for nonprofits, which is something I’ve never been able to do, but I was the one that championed and pushed for the $10 million for the Immigrant Defense Fund. The things that are happening now are because I have this seat at the table.”
However, Comrie said he believed that the IDC’s claims that the conference allows progressive agendas to get passed by Republicans is disingenuous.
“They want to go around and take credit for the Fight for $15 when they had nothing to do with it,” he said. “They want to take credit for Raise the Age? They had nothing to do with it. Those votes were predicated on all of the real Democrats who voted for it, and the governor pushing a couple of Republicans to vote for it. They have done nothing to help the progressive agenda.”
Comrie said that IDC members not willing to side with their own party have destroyed an opportunity for discourse between the two sides. He said that in years prior, this kind of political debate would result in constructive compromises between the two parties.
“I’ve had people berate me outside my office because they were upset over positions that I took, “he said. “That’s democracy at work. As head of the Queens County Delegation for 12 years, we fought like hell among each other.
But we came out unified because we were able to articulate it. Jeff Klein and Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) are the two ring leaders who, when things don’t go their way, they want to go somewhere else.”
Comrie said that while he considers Savino a friend, he disagrees with her willingness to be part of the IDC.