Monday, November 17, 2008

State History Lesson

In Saturday's NY Post, Andy Wolf outlines the historical background to today's battle for control of the NYS Senate: "After a 43-year stretch in the wilderness, New York Democrats have finally won control of both houses of the state Legislature. Or have they? A look back into history may give the Republicans a bit of hope. The last time the Democrats won both houses, they managed to botch things so badly that they lost control of the Senate in just one year and control of the Assembly four years later."

Over forty years ago, a deadlock in both houses of the legislature saw the leadership fight drag on through the month of January until a bipartisan compromise broke the logjam. The deadlock occurred because newly elected senator Robert Kennedy tried to impose his will-and his own choice-in the leadership struggle:

"The new senator was challenging the leadership of the man who was then the state's most powerful Democrat, New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr. In Kennedy's eyes, there could only be one top dog...Day after day in January 1965, neither group of Democrats could muster a majority of votes for their candidates. But Wagner had an ace in the hole, which he finally played in early February. He enlisted Gov. Rockefeller's aid to bring Republican votes to his candidates, thus allowing the GOP to have the final say on the Democratic leadership."

As Yogi Berra would say, it looks like deja vu all over again-with three rebels Dems poised to perhaps use their Republican colleagues to prevent Malcolm Smith, the leadership heir apparent, from assuming power: "On paper, at least, there will be two more Democrats than Republicans in the Senate come January. But an odd coalition of three renegade Democrats threatens that victory. One switch means a tie and entry into uncharted waters. Two defections would mean a Republican restoration - victory snatched from the jaws of defeat."

The longer the three can hold out, the more likely it would be that some alternative to Smith would have to emerge-unless the governor wants to see total gridlock while he tries to get New York out of its worst financial situation since the Great Depression. And, at least according to the Post's Fred Dicker, this isn't someting that would greatly trouble him.

Here's Dicker's report in this morning's column: "It's "anybody but Skelos" for Paterson when it comes to electing a new Senate majority leader in January, and that includes another Republican. While Democrats have won majority control of the Senate for the first time since 1964, it's a narrow, 30-32-seat majority that is being threatened by a "Gang of Three" Democrats who are negotiating with Skelos. Paterson publicly favors Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) for majority leader, followed by Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), but sources say he would be content if Skelos' well-liked GOP rival, Sen. Tom Libous of Binghamton, won the post.
"Just anybody but Skelos," one source said."

As Wolf points out: "But there is a lesson here for Republicans and Democrats alike: Expect the unexpected, especially in the political swamp that is Albany." The turmoil continues.