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State Senate’s balance of power up in the air

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Albany/HV: State Senate’s balance of power up in the air
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With the balance of the power in the State Senate up in air, many people are watching and wondering if Governor Cuomo will use his power to influence who leads the conference. Our Zack Fink has more.

NEW YORK STATE -- There are a lot of variables that will determine the leadership of the next Senate, set to convene in January. For his part, Governor Andrew Cuomo says he is staying out of it.

"I haven't gotten involved in a leadership dispute or debate. The Assembly will pick a leader and the Senate will pick a leader. And I have no intention of getting involved in either situation," Cuomo said.

Some races have yet to be decided. But insiders believe that the key to a governing coalition is the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference led by Bronx Senator Jeff Klein.

The group, known as the IDC, split off from fellow Democrats after fighting over leadership when the party briefly captured control of the Senate following the 2008 elections. The IDC caucuses independently.

Cuomo said, "On the Senate, it’s more complicated than it used to be. I think when it was just Democrats and Republicans, it used to be whoever had more won. Now it’s more of a coalition because its three groups instead of just two."

But sources say there have already been preliminary discussions between the IDC and Republicans about building a governing coalition. The animosity between the IDC and the Democrats they broke off from remains potent. Democrats say they want to welcome back the four members.

State Senator Michael Gianaris said, "Across the state, people made it clear they want a Democratic majority in the State Senate. Every Democratic seat was returned safely. Every competitive seat held by Republicans was won by Democrats."

The period when the Senate was under democratic control was marred by what even Democrats have characterized as dysfunction. It’s an image of state government the governor has fought hard to change.

Cuomo said, "No one is going back. I think they learned the hard way. The Democrats were in power, they then lost power because of the dysfunction."

There had been talk a special session this fall to tackle unfinished business, including raising the minimum wage and campaign finance reform. But with the Senate's composition still up in the air, that now seems very unlikely.

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