It what promises to be a real potential donnybrook, at least two of the senators who have refused to support Malcolm Smith for majority leader reiterated their opposition to the Queens lawmaker-in fact, the defection of Hiram Monserrate from their so-called gang of four has only apparently hardened their stance. In this morning's NY Daily News, Liz Benjamin lays it out:
"After seeing one of their Gang of Four defect, two renegade Senate Democrats dug in their heels Sunday and threatened to hijack state government by letting a leadership battle drag on for weeks or even months..."I don't care if we go past the opening of session without a decision," a defiant Kruger declared. "Until I am totally satisfied the house will be run differently, that there will be a voice for everyone and not just the left wing of the party, I won't ever, ever, ever succumb."
For Kruger's part, he sees the Monserrate defection as a result of pressure from left wing elements in the Democratic party, particularly the WFP, to take control at the expense of tax payers, home owners and small businesses. The other senator who's not enamored with Smith's leadership, the Bronx's Pedro Espada told the News: "Espada reiterated he won't vote for a Republican leader, but he won't support Smith, either. The rebel Dem said he is holding out hope for a "fusion" leadership team - possibly with him as leader and a Republican as his No. 2. "I can't say that's not being discussed right now; 32-30 either way does not make a real mandate for either party to claim," Espada said."
These two intransigents are still joined by Senator Ruben Diaz, a lawmaker with a deep social conservative concern around gay rights issues: "Diaz Sr., a Pentecostal minister, has said he won't vote for any leader who will bring a same-sex marriage bill up for a vote. Gay donors poured money into the Senate Democrats' coffers this election season, and marriage is their top priority. Smith supports gay marriage, but has said the Democrats' first priority is the state's fiscal crisis. Diaz Sr. might remain neutral when it comes time to vote for a leader, in which case, as Espada put it: "Malcolm can't win - not without Espada and Kruger."
We've been told that gay rights leaders are planning to demonstrate in front of Diaz's Bronx office today-a move that could lead to his further estrangement from a putative Smith reign, As the NY Times reported yesterday:
"Democrats won a narrow majority in New York's Senate, where Republicans have buried legislation to start issuing marriage licenses regardless of gender. A Senate power shift was not a sure thing because four Democrats were considering an alliance with the GOP, which could swing the 32-30 majority back to Republicans.
'The only chance we had for meaningful debate or consideration of these issues in the state Senate was with a new Senate leadership,'' said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York's largest gay rights advocacy group. He added that no bills have passed in New York without some votes from members of both parties."
The leader of the opposition to the Gay Pride agenda is the Reverend Duane Motley. Motley told the Times that the Republicans were solidly against any gay marriage initiative, but that the new potential Democratic heads were unknowns: "The Rev. Duane Motley, founder of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, which opposes gay marriage, said they knew that with Republicans in control of the Senate that legislation to legalize it ''was not going to come up.''
So, unless the senate Dems can give Diaz some iron clad assurances, it doesn't appear that they can count on his vote-which puts, as the NY Daily News tells us this morning, Malcolm Smith in the middle of a "political revolt." And Espada told the paper: "We do not believe at this point, given the way he has conducted himself, that we can vote for him."
And the issue of Smith's support of Mayor Bloomberg is still rankling some in the Hispanic community. As Gerson Borrero says in this morning's El Diario, the "sombra" of Ferrer is hovering over the senate leadership battle: "Smith le dijo no a Ferrer en su momento, le quito el voto de confianza al representante de mayor rango politico de la comunidad hispana y ese mal sabor empieza a despertar intriga en Albany."
At the just concluded Somos El Futuro conference in San Juan, the governor recognized the problematic senate leadership issue with the following cryptic remark: "When it comes time to vote in January, whichever way the senators vote, that will be right because that will be the majority." Perhaps Paterson, much like the old Persian king, sees the handwriting on the wall.