No Place for Race

To hear some New York politicians tell it, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is collaborating with white Republicans in the state Senate

To hear some New York politicians tell it, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is collaborating with white Republicans in the state Senate to deny African-Americans a share of power in Albany.

This argument is dangerous, provocative and incendiary. And, by the way, it’s just plain wrong.

The matter in question is a deal cut between Senate Republicans and a group of five independent Democrats who have agreed to vote with the Republican caucus. In return, the independent Democrats, led by Jeffrey Klein of the Bronx, get a share of the Senate’s leadership. That means the almost evenly divided Senate will be run on something resembling a bipartisan basis, which is a good thing in this age of mindless partisanship.

But some politicos just don’t see it that way. At a rally over the weekend to protest the arrangement in the Senate, several speakers played the race card, in essence accusing the governor of being party to a racially charged backroom deal designed to keep the Senate’s Democratic leader, John Sampson of Brooklyn, who is African-American, out of power.

Senator Sampson was part of the Senate’s leadership once before, in 2009 and 2010. It was a disaster, and nobody knows that better than the governor at the time, David Paterson, who also happens to be African-American. Mr. Paterson’s short tenure as the state’s chief executive was not particularly distinguished, but he received little help from Mr. Sampson and other Democratic senators. They brought a disheartening combination of dysfunction and incompetence to the negotiating table.

Mr. Cuomo, of course, has no formal role in the organization of the state Senate. But one thing’s for sure: he doesn’t want to relive the Paterson years, when policy took a backseat to scandal, and Albany became consumed with gossip and maneuvering at the expense of the public’s business.

That’s why Mr. Cuomo stood aside while a few of his fellow Democrats did their deal with Senate Republicans. The new arrangement ensures that there will be no repeat of the antics of 2009 and 2010. That’s good for everybody.

Except, apparently, for a few bitter Democrats who see race behind these machinations. State Senator Bill Perkins conjured an inflammatory image when he accused Mr. Cuomo of standing by while black lawmakers were put “in the back of the bus.” A senator from Westchester County, Ruth Hassell-Thompson, accused Mr. Cuomo of envisioning a Democratic Party without black leaders.

Nope. Mr. Cuomo wants competent leaders, in the Senate and in his party. He’ll take them of any color or creed, as long as they can get the job done.

Responsible leaders need to call out demagogues when they play the race card unjustly. There’s no place for this sort of rhetoric in New York politics. No Place for Race