Democrat James Sanders Open to Jeff Klein Being a Leader in the Democratic Conference [Update]

State Senator Jeff Klein. (Photo: Getty)

State Senator Jeff Klein. (Photo: Getty)

After State Senator Jeff Klein broke away from his fellow Democrats to enter into a power-sharing agreement with the Republican Party, he drew the wrath of many in his old conference. But at least one Democratic senator is willing to let bygones be bygones.

Queens State Senator James Sanders told the Observer yesterday that, in the wake of a recent NY1 report on discussions about Mr. Klein rejoining the mainline Democrats in exchange for a leadership post, he would be willing to accept Mr. Klein as his leader.

“It is always good to have Democrats come back to the fold. The Democratic tent must be a large tent and it must be welcoming,” Mr. Sanders said. “He is welcome back and I encourage Senator Gianaris to get out there and continue these dialogues.”

“We can argue where you want to go, but he has certainly show himself to be a leader, so he should be welcomed with the appropriate leadership position,” he added.

Mr. Sanders’ position remains an outlier in the Democratic conference. After Mr. Klein and a handful of other senators decided form the Independent Democratic Conference and forge a deal in which Mr. Klein and Republican State Senator Dean Skelos serve as co-majority leaders of the body, many mainline Democrats became permanently alienated from Mr. Klein. A scenario where Mr. Klein displaced Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the current leader of the mainline dems, would be deeply problematic for many members, sources say.

A spokesman for the Senate Democrats told the Observer that uniting the Democrats was the ultimate goal and did not address specifically whether Mr. Klein would be welcomed back in a leadership role

“Our stance has always been the same, we want Democrats to be united and for us to be in our rightful position, the majority, like the voters demanded,” the spokesman, Mike Murphy, said.

Senate observers point out that any deal to end the power-sharing agreement between the IDC and the GOP will likely not occur until after the November elections. Many senate seats are up for grabs and two Democrats no longer conference with the party after being indicted.

A spokesman for Mr. Klein did not immediately return a request for comment.

Update (12:00 p.m.): Mr. Sanders wanted to clarify today that it would be up to the Democratic conference, not himself, to decide if Mr. Klein should lead them. He also said he was open to Mr. Klein being a top leader of the Democrats, but would not favor Mr. Klein as the chief leader.

“Klein has shown that he is a leader, he can bring a coalition together and been able to hold a group together. He is a leader,” Mr. Sanders said. “There’s a difference between being a leader and ‘the’ leader. While I am personally willing to accept Klein as a leader in the Democratic conference, the conference itself has to say who is the leader.”

“I would not favor him being ‘the’ leader. Certainly I can see him as one of the leaders of the Democratic conference,” he added.