Independent Democratic Conference

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Independent Democratic Conference
Conference Leader Jeffrey D. Klein
Deputy Conference Leader David J. Valesky
Conference Whip David Carlucci
Conference Liaison to the Executive Branch Diane Savino
Assistant Conference Leader for Policy and Administration Tony Avella
Founded 2011
National affiliation None
Seats in the State Senate
08 / 63

The Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) is a group of eight members of the New York State Senate who were elected as Democrats and are in a majority coalition with the Republicans in the chamber. The IDC is led by Jeffrey D. Klein, and also includes David J. Valesky, David Carlucci, Diane Savino, Tony Avella, Jose Peralta, Jesse Hamilton, and Marisol Alcantara. "Independent Democrat" is not a recognized political party in New York State, so members of the caucus appear on the ballot as Democrats, but support the Republican leadership once elected.

Democrats lost control of the State Senate in the November 2010 elections, and removed Klein from his role as their chief election strategist. In 2011, Klein resigned as the Democrats' deputy leader and formed the IDC with Valesky, Carlucci, and Savino. Brooklyn Senator Simcha Felder, who is not a member of the IDC, caucuses with the Republicans, giving the Republican Party the majority and outright control of the chamber.


The Democratic Party took control of the New York State Senate from the Republican Party in the November 2008 elections for the first time since 1964, controlling 32 out of the chambers' 62 seats. However, four Democratic Senators, Pedro Espada Jr., Rubén Díaz Sr., Carl Kruger, and Hiram Monserrate did not support the Democratic Leader, Malcolm Smith.[1] In the new session, Espada and Monserrate voted against Smith as Majority Leader. Monserrate rejoined the Democrats, leaving a deadlocked 31-31 Senate, causing the 2009 New York State Senate leadership crisis. Jeffrey D. Klein, who became the Deputy Majority Leader after the 2008 elections, was charged with keeping Espada, Diaz, Kruger, and Monserrate in the Democratic coalition.[2]

Following the leadership crisis, Republicans won control of the chamber in the November 2010 elections.[3] In the fallout of the 2010 elections, Democrats replaced Klein as their chief strategist in December 2010.[4] Klein stepped down as deputy minority leader in January 2011, citing disagreements with John L. Sampson, the Minority Leader of the State Senate.[5]

Conference history[edit]

A few days after resigning as deputy minority leader, Klein formed a group of four Democratic Senators, also including Diane Savino, David J. Valesky, and David Carlucci, announced that they would form their own caucus within the State Senate called the "Independent Democratic Conference", because they no longer approved of Sampson's leadership.[6] Sampson offered the IDC members minor roles on committees, and Klein reached out to Dean Skelos, the Republican leader. Skelos agreed to give the four members chairmanships of standing committees.[7][8] Democratic Senators, including Ruth Hassell-Thompson, criticized Klein for leaving the campaign committee in debt and following his own personal ambitions.[9]

In the November 2012 elections, Democrats won the majority of seats in the State Senate.[10] However, a week after the election, Simcha Felder, a newly elected Democrat, announced his intentions to caucus with the Republican Party.[11] In December, the IDC recruited Malcolm Smith and agreed to caucus with the Republicans instead of the Democrats, giving Republicans control; the gambit was part of a failed attempt by Smith to secure the Republican line in the New York City mayoral election, one that also included illegal bribery, which led to his expulsion from the conference and, eventually, the Senate. Klein struck a deal with Skelos to alternate who would preside over the chamber every two weeks.[12] Tony Avella joined the IDC in February 2014.[13]

Liberal activists working with the Democratic Party and the Working Families Party targeted Klein and Avella during the Democratic primary elections in September 2014, with Oliver Koppell challenging Klein and John Liu challenging Avella.[14] Due to pressure from Governor Andrew Cuomo and labor unions, Klein indicated in June 2014 that the IDC would rejoin the Democratic caucus after the November 2014 elections.[15] Still, the IDC supported Betty Jean Grant's unsuccessful primary challenge against Timothy M. Kennedy, because of her pro-choice political stance.[16] Klein and Avella won their primaries.[17][18] In the general election, Republicans won control of the Senate outright,[19] with Skelos assuming complete control.[20] Though the new Democratic leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, had continued discussions with Klein about the IDC rejoining the Democrats,[21] the IDC members decided to remain with the Republicans in the 2015 legislative session.[20][22]

During the 2015 session, the IDC successfully pushed the Republicans to include paid family leave and a $15 per hour minimum wage in the state budget.[14] Klein also pushed for more funding to the New York City Housing Authority,[23] and obtained $100 million. During Skelos' 2015 trial for corruption, a wiretapped conversation was aired where Skelos argued that in their power sharing agreement, the IDC would have no real power and it would serve to hinder Democrats by keeping them divided. Klein indicated that this recording would not change the IDC agreement with Republicans.[24]

Heading into the November 2016 elections, Klein would not commit to rejoining the Democrats.[25] Following the 2014 primary challenges, the IDC formed their own campaign committee through an agreement with the Independence Party of New York.[26] After the elections, newly elected Senators Marisol Alcantara and Jesse Hamilton joined the IDC.[27] Despite pressure from liberal activists to find a way to unite the 24 mainstream Democrats with the IDC and Felder to form a 32-member majority,[28] including Stewart-Cousins attempting to involve Cuomo,[29] the IDC and Felder continued their relationships with the 31 Senate Republicans, giving Republicans the majority in the 2017 legislative session and swinging control of that body to the Republican conference.[30] In January, Jose Peralta joined the IDC.[31] Following the election and inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States, the Democratic Conference and local activists began to step up critisim of the IDC for spitting the Democratic vote in the State Senate and thus swinging control to the Republican Conference.[32][33]

In early May 2017, it was revealed that members of the IDC, among them Savino and Peralta, received stipends ("lulus") normally reserved only for chairmen of committees, who, in these cases, were Republicans. The payments appear to be have approved by Republican leadership in the State Senate.[34] It later emerged that this was also made possible through the actions of staff who falsely listed the members of the IDC as committee chairmen.[35] The scandal is currently under investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the U.S. Attorney for Brooklyn, the members of the IDC have refused attempts by the Democratic Party to have the conference join with the "mainstream" Democratic Conference completely or in a coalition.[36]

On May 31, state senator Simcha Felder, the only Democrat who currently caucuses with the Republicans, wrote a letter to the conference urging that they rejoin the mainline Democrats; Felder called on the IDC to "“unconditionally and publicly rejoin the Democrats.” while it was unclear if he himself would rejoin the democrats. When his office was called for clarification, his office merely responded: “his letter speaks for itself.”[37]


Current members[edit]

Former members[edit]


  1. ^ "Democrats Are Poised to Control Albany". The New York Times. November 5, 2008. Retrieved February 9, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Jeff Klein: The Bronx Democrat Keeping the GOP in Power". Retrieved February 9, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Recount hands Republicans control of state Senate". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Katz: Klein out as top Dem strategist". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Bronx's State Sen. Klein quits No. 2 Dem post". Retrieved February 9, 2017. 
  6. ^ Kaplan, Thomas; Confessore, Nicholas (January 5, 2011). "4 Democrats in State Senate Break With Leaders". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  7. ^ Aris, Hezi (January 26, 2011). "Independent Democratic Conference Members to Chair Legislative Committees". Yonkers Tribune. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Klein and Co. upset Democrats some more". Riverdale Press. Retrieved February 9, 2017. 
  9. ^ Vielkind, Jimmy (January 18, 2011). "These party ties don't bind: Democratic renegade Klein taking flak for Senate losses". Times Union. Albany, New York. Retrieved February 10, 2017. 
  10. ^ Kaplan, Thomas (November 7, 2012). "G.O.P. in Surprise Fight to Hold New York Senate". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  11. ^ "Brooklyn Democratic state Senator-elect Felder to caucus with GOP". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  12. ^ a b Kaplan, Thomas; Hakim, Danny (December 5, 2012). "Coalition Is to Control State Senate as Dissident Democrats Join With Republicans". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Avella's defection strengthens Senate coalition". Times Union. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  14. ^ a b King, David Howard. "2016 A Far Different Election Year for Independent Democrats". Gotham Gazette. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  15. ^ "Senate's Independent Democratic Conference announces end to alliance with Republicans - UPDATED". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  16. ^ McCarthy, Robert J. (January 25, 2014). "Senate caucus plans to back Grant in Democratic primary". The Buffalo News. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  17. ^ "Jeff Klein Defeats Oliver Koppell, Promises Strong Future For IDC". New York Observer. September 10, 2014. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  18. ^ "John Liu concedes to State. Sen Tony Avella one week after Democratic Primary". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  19. ^ Mckinley, Jesse (November 5, 2014). "In Rebuke to Democrats, Voters Return Control of New York Senate to G.O.P.". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  20. ^ a b "Klein, diminished but still desired, sides with power". Capital New York. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  21. ^ "Senate Democratic leader Stewart-Cousins talking with IDC". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  22. ^ "GOP takes full control of NY Senate, but retains 'coalition' with Valesky, IDC". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  23. ^ "Klein pushes NYCHA-heavy housing agenda". Politico. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  24. ^ "Independent Democrats not ready to abandon NYS Senate GOP". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  25. ^ Precious, Tom (September 16, 2016). "Cuomo: Control of Senate up to IDC". The Buffalo News. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  26. ^ "LOVETT: Five Senate Dems create their own campaign committee". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  27. ^ Mckinley, Jesse (November 7, 2016). "Breakaway Group in New York Senate Becomes an Island of Power". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  28. ^ "Cuomo meets with Senate Dems, stays quiet amid rising noise". Politico. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  29. ^ "Cuomo stands by as Senate goes Republican". Politico. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  30. ^ "IDC will once again partner with Senate GOP". Times Union. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  31. ^ "State Senate Dems’ splinter group gains 8th member: Jose Peralta". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 9, 2017. 
  32. ^ Yee, Vivian; Mckinley, Jesse (February 6, 2017). "Breakaway Democrats in New York Feel Trump Backlash". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  33. ^ "Gianaris hits back at Klein, says IDC enables GOP, Trump". Times Union. January 31, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  34. ^ Mckinley, Jesse (May 9, 2017). "For Group of Breakaway Democrats in New York, It Pays to Be No. 2". The New York Times. Retrieved May 30, 2017. 
  35. ^ Mckinley, Jesse (May 11, 2017). "False Payroll Information Allows 3 State Senators to Collect Thousands". The New York Times. 
  36. ^ Mckinley, Jesse (May 23, 2017). "Stipend Scandal Fuels Divide Among New York’s Democratic State Senators". The New York Times. 
  37. ^ Mckinley, Jesse (May 24, 2017). "Simcha Felder Tells Fellow Rogue Democrats to Rejoin the Party Fold". The New York Times. Retrieved June 5, 2017. 
  38. ^ a b c d e "Senate Leadership". October 4, 2015. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  39. ^ "Sen. Jose Peralta defects to IDC". Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  40. ^ "Jesse Hamilton promises to join Senate's IDC". Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  41. ^ "Alcantara's primary win a major victory for Senate IDC". Retrieved February 8, 2017.