According to Liz B, the supposed dinner meeting between Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Senator Pedro Espada isn't really happening: "Capitol Bureau Chief Ken Lovett reached Senate-elect Pedro Espada Jr., one of the so-called Gang of Four, and reports the Bronx Democrat denies he will be having dinner tonight in Puerto Rico with current Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos. "I'm not meeting with Dean Skelos tonight," Espada said. "I have not met with Dean Skelos. I haven't talked to him in person (in) the last three or four years."
So the silliness continues, and the effort to marginalize the Gang of Four continues as well. The latest is from the Albany Project; and from a brief purview, it appears that we have the making of a real Kossack nasty facsimile: "As Simon just pointed out, although we took 2 Senate seats last night and Gennaro/Padavan still has yet to be called, 4 "Democratic" Senators from NYC may jump ship to keep the GOP in control of the Senate. They have not committed to voting for Malcolm Smith, and spent today meeting with GOP leaders. To these four Senators, Ruben Diaz Sr., Pedro Espada Jr., Carl Kruger, Hiram Monserrate, I have message to you from the Netroots community: If you do not vote for Malcolm Smith for Senate Majoirty Leader, we will expel you from political office in the 2010 Democratic primaries."
Oh my God! This has just got to get all of the dissidents pissing themselves. It reminds us of the old Clint Eastwood line about mouths writing checks that bodies can't cash; or in other words, you and what army of little Caucasian "progressives" is going into the South Bronx to take on the Diazes? And our ex-Marine, ex cop, Hiram Monseratte, must be quaking as well.
The issue here is not whether the four would support a Republican, but whether Democrats will expand the notion of empowerment beyond a single subset. And what do these folks have to say about the party jumping minority leader, who abandoned ship just at the moment when a Puerto Rican was the standard bearer?
But not to worry mis hermanos. We now hear (via Liz again) that Malcolm has returned from his sensitivity training with the following: "New York Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith said Thursday he will create a Latino caucus in his conference, addressing one concern of the so-called "Gang of Four" Democrats who threaten the party's newly won majority in the chamber...Smith said a Latino caucus in his Democratic conference will include about five lawmakers and, like other caucuses of black and women senators, will develop and advance legislation on their particular issues."
Was this thought up by a committee? Are we the only ones to see this a just a tad patronizing?-particularly since 28 doesn't yet equal 32. As Fred Dicker pointed out yesterday morning: "Potentially ominous for Smith was the absence at the meeting of the "Gang of Four" Democratic senators and senators-elect who have formed an "independence caucus" that has appeared open to continued GOP control."
And the public statements from the rest of the Dems after Wednesday's non leadership meeting aren't necessarily helpful: "During his press conference, Smith characterized the group as just a caucus, nothing more. "We have a lot of caucuses," he said. "We have an upstate caucus, a suburban caucus, a black caucus, and an independent caucus." After the scrum, Senator Liz Krueger expressed confidence the mini-rebellion would blow over. "I have not seen anything in writing or spoken by those senators to date. They're not leaving," she said. "All they've done is put out a press release."
In the midst of all of this inside baseball jockeying, it's useful to remind folks that the state is in some very serious fiscal trouble; and the existence of a leadership vacuum is ominous, given the scope of the problems that we face. The four dissidents represent some very diverse constituencies, and we can see their desire to gain more influence as a positive step towards reform and a needed change of direction.