Albany in Upheaval Today After Espada/Monserrate Defection

State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr.

State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr.

NY State Senators Hiram Monserrate and Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. voted with the Republican minority yesterday in a – so far successful – effort to unseat Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and overturn the Democratic majority.

This is huge

Details and likely court challenges are still emerging. Starting yesterday afternoon, NY political junkies have been visiting Liz Benjamin’s Daily News blog and the New York Times’ City Room blog obsessively for more details. The latter has 400 comments up,  more than any other story in recent memory. Which is to say, yesterday’s news is a massive upset with deep aftershocks.

WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor had this to say:

“We strongly condemn the actions of Senators Monserrate and Espada Jr., who today violated the trust of millions of middle- and working-class New Yorkers. Last November, the people of New York voted to shift control of the State Senate to the Democrats after 40 years of Republican rule. The reason was the same one that brought President Obama to the White House: a desire for real change.

“Today’s coup d’etat is not about reform. It’s a power grab by the Republicans, aided and abetted by two Democrats who should know better. Their constituents need jobs and affordable housing and clean water and civil rights, not the self-serving and phony reform being peddled by a billionaire who has left the state because he didn’t want to pay his fair share of the tax burden.

“New Yorkers voted by the millions last November for a government that would put them before big money special interests, and today those votes have been temporarily negated. We call on Senators Monserrate and Espada to reverse their positions and re-align with the voters of New York.”

With only 2 weeks before the end of the legislative season, the WFP and our allies have been pushing hard on multiple issues: rent reform, green jobs, the national popular vote, paid family leave, to name a few. If this coup stands, it will be a serious blow to the wishes and needs of New York’s working families.

Should we be surprised?

Politicker NY wrote about the relationship between Espada and Smith back in December, when the deal between the two was not yet final:

ALBANY—State Senator-elect Pedro Espada Jr. doesn’t know who he’ll support to lead his chamber. He’s talking to everyone – Republican, Democrat…whoever. But not to fellow State Senator Malcolm Smith, who he repeatedly called “a scoundrel and a liar” late Wednesday after Smith announced he would no longer negotiate with Espada or fellow members of the so-called Gang of Three.

“There is no way that I would cast my vote for Malcolm Smith, and there is no way I would have conversations with anyone other than the entire conference,” he said.

Espada said his next move would be to invite other Democratic senators to convene without Smith, hoping to force Smith from the leadership. “He’s not ready for prime time,” Espada said, repeating an assertion he made earlier.

Espada’s frustration stems from the deal he and his gang struck with Smith last week. Espada says Smith went back on it when he told reporters that negotiations were ongoing. “We knew right then we had shaken hands with a liar and a scoundrel,” Espada said.

And to get it, he said, he’ll deal with anyone. Including Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos and other Republican Senators, some of whom he served with briefly before losing a reelection bid in 2002. They’ve been talking, Espada said.

But he doesn’t see a Senate based on party lines. “Two votes does not make a mandate, it makes for bipartisanship. It’s a recipe for chaos unless you have a bipartisan conference,” Espada said. “There’s a host of issues here that I would call a wedge issue. There’s always been regional differences and suburban-urban differences.”

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