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The New York Times reported that Democrats in Albany "have agreed to reunite and end seven years of infighting." Wikipedia indicates that the problem grew out of the 2009 crisis, in which two Democrats spontaneously voted with the Republican bloc to replace the State Senate's majority leader with a Republican. This ended in a complete and utter catastrophe, with senators literally locking one another out of the Senate building and holding separate sessions which refused to recognize one another. After Republicans took over "for real" in the 2010 elections, the Democrats fractured into two conferences, a mainline one and an "Independent Democratic Conference."

What I have not been able to figure out is why these Democrats decided to break away from the mainline conference. The Wikipedia article is really vague, citing "dissatisfaction with the job that Majority Leader Malcolm Smith was doing." I've also seen some suggestion that Andrew Cuomo may have been involved. But what was the actual policy dispute between the Democratic Conference and the Independent Democratic Conference?

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Short Answer

There was no actual policy dispute between the IDC and mainline democrats. The split occurred because of John L. Sampson causing distrust amongst a faction of democrats.

Long Answer

John L. Sampson has participated in several instances of bad behavior as the New York Times depicts.

The examples leading up to the split are:

  1. Casino Bidding Investigations at the Aqueduct Racetrack

The four breakaway senators [Jeffrey Klein, Diane Savino, David J. Valesky, David Carlucci] said they had lost confidence in him [John L. Sampson] after a year in which Mr. Sampson and other Democratic leaders were implicated in investigations of casino bidding and lawmaker earmarks that became fodder for Republican campaign attacks.

  1. Going over the Democratic Campaign budget

Mr. Sampson has also been criticized for going way over the Democrats’ campaign budget and exceeding the Democrats’ $29 million legislative budget by $7 million.


Indeed, the IDC still wanted to vote with Cuomo and his policies, but they felt that associating with sampson would be too toxic for them at that time. As Jeffrey Klein Stated:

“Let me be clear. We are Democrats, but we could no longer in good conscience support the present Democratic leadership.”

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