ALBANY, N.Y. — A top leader of the New York Democratic Party on Tuesday called on Democrats in the state Senate to set aside their “intramural politics” in order to seize control of the chamber from Republicans.
Geoff Berman, the party’s executive director, warned that any Democratic senator who attempts to undermine a plan to reunify two factions of Democratic senators “is disloyal to the party and we shall and will unite to defeat them.”
“We cannot and we will not tolerate any continued division or individual power struggles within the Senate Democratic Conference,” Berman wrote in a statement.
Democrats already have a big majority in the state Assembly and hold the offices of governor, comptroller and attorney general. Control of the Senate would give them a lock on state government and ease the way for several high-profile proposals currently blocked by the GOP.
Republicans now have a one-seat majority in the 63-seat chamber, but Democrats hope to take over following two special Senate elections April 24 in the Bronx and Westchester County. To control the chamber the Democrats must first resolve a schism that prompted nine members to break with the mainline Democrats and ally themselves with the GOP.
The leaders of the traditional Democrats in the Senate and the main splinter group, the Independent Democrats, have agreed to join together if Democratic candidates prevail in the two special elections. Previous reunification talks failed in 2014.
Berman’s warning is the latest sign that top Democrats like Cuomo are serious about repairing the rupture.
Republicans shrugged off Berman’s statement and said Democratic control of the Senate would be an “unmitigated disaster.”
“More than ever before, we need checks and balances to prevent the radical New York City politicians from doing whatever the hell they want,” said Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif.
In the Westchester race, Democratic Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer faces Republican Julie Killian, a former local councilwoman. The Bronx race should be an easy win for the Democrats. Democratic candidate Luis Sepulveda, a state assemblyman, doesn’t yet have a Republican opponent. Registered Democrats in the district outnumber Republicans by more than 20-1.
Both seats were previously held by Democrats and became vacant when former Sen. Ruben Diaz was elected to the New York City Council and ex-Sen. George Latimer won the office of Westchester County executive.