State Senator Jeffrey Klein, leader of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, today denied claims from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s running mate Kathy Hochul that his splinter cell–which agreed to caucus with the Republicans in 2012–was to blame for the failure to pass the pro-choice Women’s Equality Act.
In an apparent bid to boost her progressive credentials in the face of criticism from her liberal rival Tim Wu, Ms. Hochul has lashed out at the IDC and claimed the Women’s Equality Act would have passed if Mr. Klein had not joined forces with GOP leader Dean Skelos. The bill would have enshrined the right to an abortion along with a number of anti-sexual harassment and discrimination statutes.
But the Bronx lawmaker argued today that there were never enough votes to pass the act in its entirety, regardless of what side he caucused with.
“Since I’ve been in the New York State Senate, for nine years, there have not been 32 senators who were pro-choice,” Mr. Klein told reporters after a press conference in the Bronx. “I don’t see how things could have been any different.”
Mr. Klein said that the responsibility for failing to pass the act lay at the feet of right-to-life Democrats and Republicans–and, ultimately, voters.
“What we need to do is elect more Democrats who are pro-choice,” said Mr. Klein, noting he himself had always supported the right to an abortion.
Ms. Hochul’s camp did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Last month, she appeared at a rally for former city comptroller John Liu, who is challenging Queens State Senator Tony Avella–who joined the IDC in February.Ms. Hochul has come under increasing criticism from Mr. Wu–running mate of Mr. Cuomo’s longshot challenger Zephyr Teachout–for her historically conservative stances on gun control and illegal immigration.
Ms. Hochul served as county clerk for Erie County in western New York, and represented a majority Republican district for 2011 through 2012 after winning a special election to replace disgraced GOP Congressman Christopher Lee.
Later in the day today, Mr. Klein appeared alongside Ms. Hochul’s running mate, as part of a governor’s roundtable on a recent trip to Israel.