ALBANY, N.Y. – Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, in his capacity as Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee, told New York Senate Democrats to fall in line or face primary challenges.
The New York Daily News reports that Ellison took exception with eight Democratic state senators who allied with Senate Republicans to give the GOP control of the New York state senate. A ninth Democrat, Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, caucuses directly with the Republicans.
The eight senators allied with Republicans constitute the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). New York Senate Democrats have had a complicated time keeping their members support for leadership elections for most of the past decade, with the structural issue becoming more concrete with the IDC’s formation in 2011.
Currently, Democrats hold 32 of 63 senate seats in New York. The IDC and Felder’s alliance with Republicans however give Republicans a practical majority of 40 to 23.
Ellison threatened that this makeshift alliance must end, or the DNC will pour resources into New York to primary members of the IDC.
“The IDC has to shut it down,” Ellison said, according to audio acquired and transcribed by the New York Daily News. “The IDC has to stop. The IDC has to get back on the team or they can’t be a part of the team.”
For the IDC’s part, they are ready and willing to fight back against Ellison’s directive.
“For a national Democrat who is the deputy chair of the DNC who must share the blame for Democrats losing to Donald Trump to show up in New York and call for Democrats to engage in primaries shows there is something fundamentally wrong with this picture,” IDC Spokeswoman Candice Giove told the New York Daily News.
Giove also criticized Ellison for failing to ask where all New York senate Democrats stand on issues including strengthening abortion laws, single-payer health care, and the creation of a state DREAM Act that authorizes the state financial assistance program to help fund the college kids of undocumented immigrants.
Even if the IDC and Felder were to rejoin the Democratic caucus in the New York Senate, insiders believe it would be next to impossible for the caucus to pass the sort of progressive wishlist Ellison represents.
Without that, the IDC does not seem afraid to go after Ellison and the politicians he does prefer.
“His audacity in calling for primaries in New York State must mean that he understands that primaries are not limited to members of the IDC,” Giove told the New York Daily News. “If Mr. Ellison handles other parts of the country the way he handles New York, it will be a long time before Democrats regain control.”