Renegade, Republican-Aligned Faction in State Senate Picks Up Another Member

Melissa Mark-Viverito with Jesse Hamilton (Photo: Jesse Hamilton for Senate campaign).

Melissa Mark-Viverito with State Senator Jesse Hamilton (Photo: Jesse Hamilton for Senate campaign). Campaign Photo

Brooklyn State Senator Jesse Hamilton announced this afternoon that he will leave the mainstream Democratic caucus and join the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference—making some kind of power-sharing arrangement between two of the body’s three factions inevitable.

Founded in 2010, the IDC cut a deal in 2012 with the then-minority State Senate Republicans that allowed them to jointly run the body, to the exclusion of the larger Democratic conference. After the GOP regained a numerical majority in the 2014 elections, they revised the arrangement: Bronx State Senator Jeffrey Klein, the head of the IDC, retained his title of “co-leader” but lost much of his power over legislation and the chamber’s internal workings

The IDC’s members—Staten Island State Senator Diane Savino, Rockland County State Senator David Carlucci, Queens State Senator Tony Avella and Syracuse State Senator David Valesky—also got to hold onto their chairmanships.

“The Independent Democratic Conference delivers for New Yorkers,” Hamilton wrote in an emailed statement to the press and his constituents, rattling off a number of measures passed since the conference’s creation. “They get results. That’s why I’ve decided to join my fellow Democrats and become the newest member of the IDC.”

Hamilton flirted with joining the IDC shortly after his election in 2014, but decided to sit with Democrats. He will become the splinter group’s first African-American member since disgraced Queens State Senator Malcolm Smith, who the IDC expelled in 2013 amid a massive bribery scandal.

Smith went on to lose his seat to former Councilman Leroy Comrie in 2013.

The IDC is also set to gain its first Hispanic member in Marisol Alcantara, who will almost certainly win election tomorrow to the Upper Manhattan state senate seat that previously belonged to State Senator Adriano Espaillat. Espaillat himself, who backed Alcantara as his successor, is virtually guaranteed to win election to retiring Congressman Charles Rangel‘s seat.

Espaillat, who will be the first Dominican-American in the House of Representatives, won the Democratic primary in June.

At present, there are 31 registered Democrats in the State Senate in all, and 31 registered Republicans. Brooklyn State Senator Simcha Felder, a Democrat, sits with the GOP conference, giving them a numerical majority. However, Felder has vowed to sit with whoever is in the majority in the future.

Democrats are looking to capture seats they previously held in the Hudson Valley and retain the seat of State Senator Todd Kaminsky—who defeated a Republican in a special election in April to replace disgraced former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos—and to possibly capitalize on other GOP scandals in Nassau County.

Republicans aim to retake a conservative Buffalo-area district belonging to a Democrat departing after this year.

The IDC has refused to indicate whether it will work with the Democrats or the Republicans, and likely will wait until tomorrow’s outcome to decide. The group would only insist on its continued independence when pressed for comment.

“The IDC will remain a separate third conference that prides itself on championing issues facing working- and middle-class New Yorkers and achieving victories for them,” said spokeswoman Candice Giove.

Article continues below
More from Culture
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and Caroline Cossey.
In ‘The Trans List’, Marginalized Voices Tell Their Own Stories