State Senator Hiram Monserrate is a fan of John Sampson, the potential new leader of the State Senate Democrats, calling him “a fine gentleman.”
“I like him as an individual,” Monserrate said in a phone interview Saturday evening. “I think it would be premature to say anything more than that.”
As the man at the center of the chaotic storm in Albany, who is being fought over by Republicans and Democrats, Monserrate is walking a fine line. In the relatively brief phone call, he offered words of support for a Republican-dominated coalition majority in the Senate, while at the same time suggesting that he might return to the Democratic conference.
“At this point, nothing has changed,” said Monserrate, who joined fellow Senate Democratic dissident Pedro Espada Jr. to overturn the Democratic majority in the chamber last week. “There will be a resolution very soon.”
He seemed to be laying the groundwork to rejoin the Democrats, characterizing the turmoil he helped orchestrate as a catalyst for change among Democrats.
“The Democrats today in the New York State Senate are more unified than they ever have been,” he said.
“For all the criticism that I have received, it is with no question that anyone who knows the function of Albany knows that it wasn’t working right,” he said. “Maybe it took this drastic turn of events to help up come together and find a better way of governing.”
That new Democratic unity, at least according to the Post, comes as the Democratic conference now is coalescing around Sampson as its new leader, bucking Majority Leader Malcolm Smith.
Monserrate has been under tremendous pressure from Democrats to come back to their camp, and he has been careful to maintain leverage by not rejecting the idea outright. He noted Friday in remarks to the Senate, "You can't have a coalition government with two Democrats and 30 Republicans," and he reiterated that idea in the phone call Saturday.
Initially, Espada and Republicans seemed optimistic that other Democrats would quickly join the new majority, but that did not occur.
Monserrate, who said he attended the Yankees-Mets game with Espada Saturday, noted that he never signed on to only vote with Republicans in a block.
“I agreed to a bipartisan coalition—that was my agreement—a bipartisan coalition,” he said.