An eccentric Bronx lawmaker who, with three colleagues, plunged the State Legislature into a bitter power struggle eight years ago lashed out at Gov. Andrew Cuomo today for alleged prejudice over his favorable view of a different splinter faction in Albany—the Independent Democratic Conference.
After Democrats captured a slim majority in the State Senate in the 2008 elections, State Senator Rev. Rubén Díaz Sr. joined fellow Democrats Hiram Monserrate, Carl Kruger and Pedro Espada Sr. in forming a cabal called the “Four Amigos,” which initially refused to back delegation leader Malcolm Smith to head the body. Two years later, Bronx State Senator Jeffrey Klein formed the IDC with three peers, and in 2012 entered a power-sharing arrangement with the then-minority Republicans to run the chamber jointly.
Klein’s sect has since expanded to seven members, and including African-American State Senator Jesse Hamilton of Brooklyn and Latina State Senator-elect Marisol Alcantara of Upper Manhattan—but Díaz recalled today that, unlike the Four Amigos, the IDC has been entirely white for most of its existence and has enjoyed a tight bond with Cuomo.
“The idea of creating such a powerful group by three Hispanics and a Jew was unthinkable! It was too good, too big, too powerful of an idea,” Díaz wrote in his regular “What You Should Know” dispatch. “I remember Governor Cuomo denouncing us (the 3 Hispanic [sic] and the Jewish Senator), yet praised and gave Jeff Klein and his group, all kinds of resources, assistance, and help them organize, calling them geniuses, smart, creative, etc.”
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Smith, Kruger, Monserrate and Espada have all since been indicted and convicted on various charges. Díaz’s column comes amid increasing pressure on the governor to use his considerable political and institutional clout to lean on the IDC and Brooklyn State Senator Simcha Felder, a nominal Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans, to unite with the larger party deputation.
The mainstream Democratic conference appears on the verge of having 24 members after a narrow win in Nassau County. Should the three blocs coalesce in the upper chamber, the party would hold a bare 32-seat majority, and wholly control state government in Albany.
Díaz specifically addressed his remarks to Charlie King, a prominent political strategist and Cuomo’s running mate during his ill-starred 2002 bid for governor. Yesterday, King attacked Democratic Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ calls for party unity yesterday, and praised the IDC as “successful.”
King also questioned why there is “room in the Democratic Conference for Ruben Diaz Sr. but no room for Senator Simcha Felder.” This comment appeared to compare the two lawmakers’ similarly conservative social views.
But, according to Díaz, this was a false equivalency. He asserted that he never abandoned the Democrats in 2009, but only asked that they not support legalizing gay marriage.
Felder, on the other hand, ran for State Senate in 2012 on the promise that he would sit with the GOP.
“I just wanted the commitment that the same-sex marriage bill will not come to the floor for a vote,” he wrote. “I, Senator Ruben Diaz, has never abandoned the Democratic Conference and that Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins never pushed Simca [sic] Felder out. Since Senator Felder got elected he has always sided with the Republican Conference. Never, Charlie never not even one day has Senator Felder sat with or sided with the Democrats.”
On economic issues, the Bronx pol insisted “has not been a better Democrat in the Senate than me.”
But Díaz has a history of lashing out at fellow Democrats, including Stewart-Cousins and city Comptroller Scott Stringer. He encouraged Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to visit his district last year, and has called for illegalizing nudity.
He also supported Cuomo’s 2014 GOP challenger, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.
Díaz’s son, Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., is a close Cuomo ally. Most observers expect the state senator to run for his former City Council seat next year.
Read the “What You Should Know” release in its unedited entirety below:
You should know that back in 2009 three (3) Hispanic Senators, Sen. Pedro Espada, Sen. Hiram Monserrate and myself together with Sen. Carl Cruger, (3 Hispanics and a Jewish person) created a caucus in the NY Senate trying to have some influence in Albany’s room of power.
Sen. Pedro Espada wanted to be co-leader of the Senate; Carl Kruger wanted to be chair of the powerful Finance Committee, Hiram Monserrate wanted to chair the Consumer Affairs Committee and I just wanted the commitment that the Same Sex Marriage Bill will not come to the floor for a vote.
The Situation became so complicated that we were attack by everyone, the governor, our colleagues, and the media. They called us crooks, opportunists, blackmailers, selfish, greedy, stupid, and ignoramuses, etc..…The three Hispanics and the Jewish Senator became the laughing stock of Albany.
The idea of creating such a powerful group by three Hispanics and a Jew was unthinkable! It was too good, too big, too powerful of an idea.
After everything calmed down then came Senator Jeff Klein with another group of four White Senators, and taking a page from what we started, they created what they call the “Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). They demanded and obtained more than what we demanded, and were called crooks, opportunists, blackmailers, and ignoramuses for.
I remember Governor Cuomo denouncing us (the 3 Hispanic and the Jewish Senator), yet praised and gave Jeff Klein and his group, all kinds of resources, assistance, and help them organize, calling them geniuses, smart, creative, etc…….
You should know that Sen. Jeff Klein demanded and obtained what Pedro Espada wanted (Co-Leader of the Conference). He demanded and obtained committee chairs for all members of his group in the IDC. Each was given offices to the point that carpenters were contracted to knock out walls to build them bigger offices. They demanded and obtained a budget of millions of dollars to benefit their conference to the point that, believe it or not, six members of Jeff Klein’s IDC, now have more resources and a bigger budget than the Democratic Conference of 25 Senators lead by Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins, an African American Woman.
What irony? We the three Hispanics and a Jew were called, crooks, blackmailers, opportunists, stupid, greedy, ridiculed and never obtained anything. But the five White senators who did what we did, and even worst demanding and obtaining more, are called heroes, geniuses, and have the full backing and support of Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Now my good friend, Charlie King, a surrogate to Governor Cuomo, is questioning why Senator Jeff Klein’s IDC is getting stronger, and why members of the regular Democratic Conference, are abandoning their leader Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and the Democratic Conference to join Klein’s group.
Charlie the answer is simple. They are abandoning the Senate Democratic Conference because the IDC has been granted the money, they have the governor’s support, they have the media, and they have the resources that have been denied to the Regular Democratic Senate Conference.
Honestly, it is ridiculous to ask Senator Jeff Klein and his followers to abandon all that the Democratic governor, who is the leader of the party in the state, has helped them to obtain.
It is important also that my dear friend Charlie King understand that when he asked “How come there is room in the Democratic Conference for Sen. Ruben Diaz and not for Senator Simca Felder.” The answer is because I, Senator Ruben Diaz, has never abandoned the Democratic Conference and that Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins never pushed Simca Felder out. Since Senator Felder got elected he has always sided with the Republican Conference. Never, Charlie never not even one day has Senator Felder sat with or sided with the Democrats.
With the exception of my position against same sex marriage and abortion, I feel it safe to say that as of today, there has not been a better Democrat in the Senate than me always fighting on behalf of the needy, the abandoned and the children that have been left behind.
I am Senator Ruben Diaz and this is What You Should Know.