ALBANY—One of the things that struck Daniel Squadron, the 29-year-old freshman state senator who beat a 30-year incumbent in a primary, about David Paterson’s State of the State address was that he didn’t get a seat.
“It was very tiring to stand,” said Squadron. (It wasn’t just him, but several senators who walked in a little late as they rushed to complete other business.)
He admitted that he was at times a little too caught up in the moment to listen to some of the finer details of what was proposed.
“You look around, and everyone you’ve worked with in the past and dealt with in one area or the other is in one room, and as a state senator you’re a real part of that,” he said.
“It’s a moment that — it’s a little breathtaking. And so few people get this opportunity.”
He will be sworn in as a member of the chamber majority, the first for the Senate Democrats for 40 years.
One of his first tasks will be working with colleagues on reforming the chamber’s rules to be more empowering (just how empowering remains to be seen, and given Squadron’s high expectations, it may well fall short) to rank-and-file members.
There will also be the challenges of establishing a Senate office and working out which staffers will do what. Now, the walls are bare, there are no computers and the only thing in the outer room on the day of the big speech was some empty donut boxes and containers of coffee.
Squadron said one of his first priorities was something that would let him see Senate floor proceedings. (They’re webcast.)
He said he would fill out shelves currently containing nothing but the black volumes of McKinney’s Consolidated Laws with a dictionary, and “Winter’s Tale,” the first novel he’s gotten the chance to read in a year.
He wouldn’t say what his first bill will be.
Speaking again about the State of the State, Squadron said he was excited about the “45 by 15” program to require more use of green energy, and measures like banning trans fats in restaurants to stem childhood obesity.
“I liked the framework that this is a time to be bold, this is a time for ideas,” Squadron said.
I suggested that bold rhetoric does not necessarily translate into bold action.
“I think the moment allows for it,” he responded, saying that the problems force boldness. “How do you make the sausage specifically? That’s something I’m learning.”
I asked Squadron about the state of the Democratic conference. He contended that Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has come out stronger than he was before being held to the fire by the Gang of Three.
“It is not up to state senators or power brokers to choose who is in the State Senate,” he said. “It is up to constituents in each district to go out there and vote for the person that they want to have represent them. That is why I’m sitting here — it is a process I believe in more than I can say. Sitting there on Election Day, when you’ve given it everything you can, and you have to sit back and let all these people decide for themselves whether they want you or someone else, living through that process for me made it so clear for me that that is what it is all about.”