Jeff Klein Isn’t Sure Senate Democrats Are Trying to Oust Him

State Senator Jeff Klein. (Photo: Facebook)

State Senator Jeff Klein. (Photo: Facebook)

State Senator Jeff Klein may be facing a primary challenge from a candidate who claims to have the full backing of the Senate Democrats, but Mr. Klein isn’t so sure about that support.

Mr. Klein, the leader of a breakaway faction of Democrats that governs the State Senate with the Republican Party, questioned the notion today that his new challenger Oliver Koppell is running with the united support of the Senate Democrats.

“I read something this morning that one senate Democrat, Senator Gustavo Rivera, who is supposed to be endorsing Oliver Koppell, now said he’s not. So I’m unclear what this is,” Mr. Klein told the Observer at an unrelated education press conference in Manhattan. “There’s plenty of time to talk about politics, we’re in our governing phase.”

Mr. Klein was referring to Mr. Koppell’s claim that neighboring Bronx State Senator Gustavo Rivera, an outspoken critic of Mr. Klein’s power-sharing agreement with the GOP, was going to endorse him. In an interview with Capital Tonight¬†yesterday, Mr. Rivera would not commit to an immediate endorsement¬†in the race.

“Oliver Koppell … he’s somebody who has been a mentor and a friend to me. Somebody that has been a leader in the state of New York, a leader in the city and a leader in the Bronx, and is somebody that I look up to,” Mr. Rivera said carefully. “I certainly am going to answer questions and have conversations about what the politics are going to be when we get to the politics. But for the moment, I’ll just say he’s been a great friend and a great mentor, and we’ll see what happens during the summer.”

Mr. Koppell launched a challenge this week for the Bronx-based seat after months of slamming Mr. Klein for collaborating with the Republican Party to allegedly stifle liberal agenda items. While Mr. Koppell boasts the backing of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, a small political action committee and a prominent left-leaning blog, labor unions and local elected officials have not flocked to Mr. Koppell.

Appearing with Mr. Klein today, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew strongly hinted that he would not be abandoning Mr. Klein, at least not yet.

“Clearly Senator Klein is a very good friend of the United Federation of Teachers and someone we strongly support,” Mr. Mulgrew said, adding that it was up to the state teachers union to endorse in the race.

Reached for comment, Mr. Koppell was nonplussed.

“The Senate Democrats are fully in my corner and have been an integral part of the planning of the campaign,” he told the Observer. “I am full confident Gustavo Rivera will endorse me.”