Staten Island residents and members of New York-based activist group Rise and Resist demonstrated outside State Senator Diane Savino’s office on Friday in protest of her affiliation with the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference (IDC).
Up to 20 of Savino’s constituents and activists braved the snow to rally in front of her district office on Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, carrying signs reading “Which Side Are You On?” and “IDC = GOP”.
The IDC is a group of eight rogue Democratic State Senators who control the chamber in coalition with the Republican minority. Members have come under increasing pressure from their constituents since the presidential election to rejoin the Democratic caucus and install a progressive majority in Albany.
“One of the reasons Senators joined the conference was because there were no negative consequences for breaking away before, but now people are aware their Senators’ actions are stopping progressive legislation and taking away protections from constituents. If they don’t rejoin soon, we will work on finding candidates to run against them. Primary season will come soon to the IDC,” said Harris Doran, a 38-year-old organizer with Rise and Resist and filmmaker who attended the protest.
“Most of the constituents we spoke to had not heard of the IDC and didn’t know that their senators were a part of it. When they found out, they were shocked,” he added.
Senator Savino’s office did not return a request for comment by press time.
The IDC formed under the direction of Jeffrey Klein, former State Senate Deputy Majority Leader, in 2011, and included Democrats Diane Savino, David Valesky, and David Carlucci. The breakaways cited disagreements with Democratic leader John Sampson for their defection. Senators Tony Avella, Jose Peralta, Jesse Hamilton, and Marisol Alcantara later swelled the conference’s ranks.
The IDC, along with Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder, caucus with the Republicans, under the leadership of John Flanagan. Though Democrats nominally hold 32 of the 63 Senate seats, the IDC and Felder give Flanagan a fragile majority.
In partnership with the Republicans, the IDC has been blamed by campaigners for blocking the DREAM Act, which would provide tuition assistance to children of undocumented immigrants, as well as legislation to protect LBGTQ New Yorkers, preserve reproductive rights, defend and strengthen rent regulations and health care access, and reform the state’s voting, criminal justice, ethics, and campaign finance laws.
IDC members argue their actions have forced GOP lawmakers to the center and allowed the passage of progressive bills. These excuses don’t wash with campaigners.
“The IDC is blocking progressive bills from coming to the senate floor, so their argument that constituents should look at their voting records and take note of the progressive bills they have voted for is nonsense,” says Doran.
Last December, progressive activists urged New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to pressurize the rogue Democrats to return to the fold. So far he has declined to take action.
Rise and Resist have coordinated similar demonstrations with constituents outside the offices of Brooklyn IDC member Jesse Hamilton and Queens IDC member Tony Avella. They next plan to target Manhattan West Side IDC member Marisol Alcantara.
Photo Credit: Paul Rabin