Smith Is Still Democratic Leader, But Not All Dems Are Willing to Say So

ALBANY—State Senate Democrats just met behind closed doors, and the consensus is to keep meeting. Malcolm Smith, we're told, is still their nominal leader after a floor coup yesterday.

"I don't see any reason why not. I think that we have to maintain unity within our conference. This is a real test for us, and I think this is the time that we show what we're made of," State Senator Jose M. Serrano, a consistent Smith supporter, told me and a few other reporters after the meeting. "I think there's a lot of anger at what took place yesterday on the floor, but I think it's important that we channel that to stay as unified as possible within the conference."

Anger at whom, I asked: the Republicans, or State Senators Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada Jr., the turncoats who enabled the coup?

"Maybe anger is not the best word," Serrano clarified. "It was an attempt, and we were blindsided."

The holdouts are standing firm, and their ranks may be growing: Espada Jr. is raging on the radio, repeating the justifications he put out yesterday. I saw State Senators Carl Kruger, Ruben Diaz Sr., Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Martin Malave Dilan duck into a closed conference room. All refused to say they supported Smith as a leader.

A source familiar with Espada Jr.'s operations told me this morning that he and the Republicans have put over 10 committee chairmanships on the table as an enticement to other Democrats who want to defect. Espada Jr. has said others will join him and Monserrate, but he has not named any names.

As I and other reporters spoke to Serrano, several other Senate Democrats slipped by, refusing to answer questions. Smith Is Still  Democratic Leader, But Not All Dems Are Willing to Say So