Commentary & Opinion
12:35 pm
Tue October 16, 2012

Liz Benjamin - The Strange Bedfellows of Campaign Season

Two endorsements made yesterday in state Senate races proved - yet again - that old adage about the game of politics and the strange bedfellows its players choose as they seek to achieve, maintain or consolidate power.

The first came from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is now two for two, technically speaking, in bestowing his general election support on fellow Democrats.

Cuomo's first nod went to Sen. Joe Addabbo, one of the Senate Republicans' top targets this fall who is facing a spirited challenge from a GOP rising star, New York City Councilman Eric Ulrich.

In a testament to the administration's penchant for stagecraft, the governor's announced his backing of Addabbo - a fellow Queens native and Italian-American whose family has long-standing ties to the Cuomos - at the start of the Columbus Day parade.

Cuomo's second endorsement came with far less fanfare.

He announced in a press release that he had decided to back freshman Democratic Sen. David Carlucci. The governor called Carlucci a "real partner in Albany", "a leader in the Lower Hudson Valley" and a "fighter for middle-class New Yorkers."

Cuomo's backing of Carlucci muddies the waters when it comes to which side he supports in this year's re-match for control of the Senate.

If you thought his backing of Addabbo indicated Cuomo had experienced a change of heart and decided to side with the Democrats in their under-funded, long-shot effort to re-take the majority, you were clearly mistaken.

Carlucci, of course, is no ordinary Democrat. He is a member of the four-person Independent Democratic Conference, led by Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein.

The IDC, as it's known, broke away from the Democratic conference not long after its loss of the majority in 2010 and has been siding largely with the Republicans ever since.

If the outcome of the November elections is close, as is widely expected, the IDC could be in a king-making position during the majority leader vote.

Klein, widely known to have designs on the leadership post himself, has made it clear he would not return to the fold to support Democratic Minority Leader John Sampson, whose support even among his supposedly loyal conference members is fairly weak.

But it's so far unclear if Klein, who is running on the GOP line himself this year, would be willing to throw the IDC's weight behind Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

The Democrats are hoping Klein & Co. could be lured back to the Democratic side of the aisle if the offer was right. The Republicans are hoping the same.

This much is certain, thanks to Cuomo's backing of Carlucci, who doesn't appear in any danger of losing to his Republican challenger: The governor clearly approves of the IDC's existence and wouldn't mind seeing it continue - at least in the short term.

The other endorsement of note yesterday was slightly less high profile.

The Brooklyn Conservative Party announced its support of Democrat Simcha Felder, pledging its full support for his quest to win the so-called "Super Jewish" district created by the Republicans during redistricting.

That's a significant about-face for the Conservatives, who had been backing Felder's Republican opponent, incumbent Sen. David Storobin.

Felder, a former New York City councilman, is an Orthodox Jew who has a history of conservative leanings and cross-party alliances.

It wasn't long ago that Storobin's upset win in a tightly contested special election for disgraced former Democratic Sen. Carl Kruger's seat surprised everyone - including the Senate GOP.

A winner wasn't declared in that special election until early June, giving Storobin just a few weeks to serve in Albany before the session ended.

His fellow Republicans cheered his arrival, but they had already complicated his political life by eliminating the district in which he won and forcing him into what has become a complicated and ugly race with Felder.

Skelos has so far declined to formally endorse Storobin, and the Senate GOP hasn't yet spent a dime on his race, feeding speculation that he would actually prefer to see a Felder victory.

Felder, for his part, has been coy about who he'll support when the time comes for the majority leader vote.

Felder narrowly won a write-in campaign for the Conservative Party line last month. Yesterday, Brooklyn Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar cited that win to justify his dumping of Storobin in favor of Felder.

Just last month, Kassar called Felder "a closeted liberal who endorsed Barack Obama" and raised taxes while serving on the New York City Council.

It's worth noting that Kassar is on the Senate GOP payroll, serving as chief of staff to Sen. Marty Golden, who is New York's City's most prominent and powerful Republican state legislator.

So it's not too much of a stretch to interpret Kassar's 180 degree turn on Storobin as further proof that the Senate Republicans actually would prefer to see a Democrat elected over a member of their own conference on Nov. 6.

Like I said, strange bedfellows.

Liz Benjamin is host of Capital Tonight on YNN. You can follow Capital Tonight all day long at Capital Tonight.com.

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY WAMC’S COMMENTATORS ARE SOLELY THOSE OF THE AUTHORS AND DO NOT REFLECT THE VIEWS OF WAMC OR ITS MANAGEMENT…

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