Thursday, April 24, 2014

Meet the biggest douchebag 'Democrat' in New York—and the fearless progressive who can unseat him

New York state Sens. Malcolm Smith (D) and Jeff Klein (D)
State Sen. Jeff Klein (on right), with state Sen. Malcolm Smith
The day after the Nov. 2012 elections, New York Democrats woke up to find they'd won a majority of seats in the 63-member state Senate—enough to take it back from Republicans, who themselves had regained the chamber in the 2010 wave. But despite what basic math and common sense would dictate, the GOP retained control of the Senate, and still holds it to this day. So how did such an utterly nonsensical turn of events come to pass?
Two words, and remember them well: Jeff Klein.
Klein is a state senator—and a self-described "progressive" Democrat—who represents parts of the Bronx and Westchester County, including the well-to-do neighborhood of Riverdale. Klein served as deputy majority leader during the brief period from 2009-10 when Democrats ran the Senate, the first time they'd done so since the 1950s. It was a chaotic time, marred by dysfunction, and while there was plenty of blame to go around, Klein, as the party's second in command, bore a considerable share of responsibility.
Please read below the fold for more on this story.
But when the going got tough after Republicans recaptured the Senate in 2010, Klein didn't stick around to help rebuild his party from the inside. Along with three other alleged Democrats (David Valesky, David Carlucci, and Diane Savino), Klein broke away from his caucus to create the so-called Independent Democratic Conference, a group whose sole purpose was to suck up to the GOP.
Klein, who'd always been interested in power for its own sake, was never going to be named leader of his own party after the debacles of the prior two years, so instead, he went over to the Republicans to further his own political ambitions. In exchange, he received (among other things) a custom-carved district—just check out the remarkable lines on that thing—in the hopes of protecting himself from a primary challenge.
But abandonment was just Klein's first step into darkness. The true betrayal came next. As Barack Obama convincingly won re-election and carried New York handily, Democrats captured 33 seats in the state Senate; the GOP, meanwhile, held on to just 30, despite a map they'd gerrymandered for their own advantage. One conservative Democrat (Simcha Felder, who represents one of the reddest districts in the chamber) sided with the Republicans with little hesitation, but that still left Democrats with a 32-31 majority.
Until Klein and his IDC cut a deal with the devil, handing the minority Republicans control of the chamber in exchange for personal perks, committee chairmanships, and for Klein himself, the lofty title of "Co-Leader and President Pro Tempore" of the Senate, which he shares with Republican head honcho Dean Skelos. (The two quickly earned an epithet worthy of Brangelina: Skleinos.)
Stunningly, Klein claimed that he was "not empowering a Republican majority," even though he'd done exactly that. He further insisted that his buddies in the GOP were "committed to seeing major pieces of progressive legislation pass the Senate."
Klein wasn't laughing when he uttered those words, though everyone else was—archly. And just how full of shit was he? Here's just a small sampling of the progressive priorities that mainstream Democrats are prepared to pass, but that Klein's puppeteer, Skelos, has stymied in the Senate:

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