Oliver Koppell Sets New Easter Deadline for Bid Against Jeff Klein

Oliver Koppell. (Photo: NYC Council/William Alatriste)

Oliver Koppell. (Photo: NYC Council/William Alatriste)

Oliver Koppell is still not quite ready to decide whether he’ll challenge State Senator Jeff Klein, but he says he’ll know for sure after Easter Sunday.

Mr. Koppell, a former Bronx councilman, assemblyman and state attorney general, has been flirting with a bid against Mr. Klein, the influential co-majority leader of the State Senate, since last year.

Mr. Kopell has been meeting with unions, Senate Democrats and good government groups in the meantime to determine whether he’ll have enough support for a primary challenge, he told the Observer today.

“I’m going to make up my mind in the next few days and decide after Easter Sunday,” said Mr. Koppell, who had originally said he would decide whether to run after the state budget passed. “I’m talking to various groups, both citizen action groups and different political individuals, some of whom have pledged support and some of whom I’m trying to get commitments from.”

Mr. Koppell said he was also working in “close consultation” with State Senator Michael Gianaris, the chair of the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee, who is leading the effort to flip the State Senate, which is now governed by a coalition of Mr. Klein’s breakaway Independent Democratic Conference and the Republican Party, back to Democratic control. He has also been talking to major unions like 1199 and 32BJ SEIU to find out what they are willing to do to help his cause.

Mr. Koppell has repeatedly accused Mr. Klein of betraying Democratic principles by entering into the partnership with the GOP. And in the wake of the failure of the senate to pass the Dream Act, which would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants, Mr. Koppell said the immigrant rights group Make the Road New York is open to backing his challenge

Liberal activists online have also heavily targeted Mr. Klein. The left-leaning political website Daily Kos has been particularly aggressive, pushing its readers to sign a petition urging Mr. Koppell to run. Over 7,150 New Yorkers have signed so far, according to David Nir, the site’s political director.

“I’m impressed with the number,” Mr. Koppell said.

But Mr. Koppell will face an uphill battle if he does decide to run. Mr. Klein is sitting on a million-dollar war chest and is believed to be able to raise much more to defend his Bronx turf. The local political establishment, while close to Mr. Koppell, is also not eager to irk a powerful state senator still likely to win re-election, sources say.

Mr. Klein did not immediately return a request for comment, though a spokeswoman recently said that Mr. Klein had accomplished more in “one month” than Mr. Koppell had “in a lifetime.”