April 5, 2018 By Tara Law
A Republican-aligned faction of eight Senate Democrats—including Sen. Jose Peralta (D- Jackson Heights)— announced yesterday that it has decided to dissolve and rejoin the party.
The Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) leader, Senator Jeff Klein, held a press conference with Governor Andrew Cuomo and head Democratic leader Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins yesterday to announce that they have decided to reunify the party. Under the agreement between the two factions, Klein will become Stewart-Cousins’ deputy.
The agreement was reached amid heavy political pressure for the IDC to reject their affiliation with the Republicans.
The Democratic primary this year is expected to be unusually contentious, as progressive challengers have announced bids to replace IDC Senators. Jackson Heights residents Jessica Ramos and Andrea Marra announced bids this winter to replace Peralta. Both candidates have said that Peralta’s association with Republicans contributed to their decision to run against him in support of progressive values.
Peralta joined the IDC in Feb. 2017 despite considerable opposition among his constituents. He defended his decision to join the IDC by saying the faction would give the community more leverage in the Republican-led Senate.
In a statement Wednesday, he argued that the IDC’s decision was made in the name of unity.
“Since the election of Trump, my constituents, and the rest of New Yorkers, have been constantly under attack,” he said. “This is why it is vital for all Democrats to work and fight together to protect all New Yorkers. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, we will be able to promote our values and ensure our progressive common agenda moves forward.”
Ramos and six candidates challenging IDC members penned a letter to IDC Senators yesterday, pointing out that the IDC reached the agreement only after the FY 2019 budget was finalized.
The letter criticizes the IDC members for failing to cooperate with other Democrats on the budget, noting that the document omitted several priorities of the Democratic priority, including DREAM Act and legislation to codify Roe v. Wade in the state constitution.
“While we all support a unified, progressive Democratic majority in the State Senate under the leadership of Andrea Stewart-Cousins, your claims of unity cannot undo the damage that you have done by blocking a single Democratic State Senator in the room to advocate for common-sense progressive priorities,” they wrote.
The letter also criticized the budget for what it argues is inadequate funding for the MTA, NYCHA and public schools.
A spokesperson for Peralta’s campaign, Jennifer Blatus, contended that the candidates’ letter distorts Peralta’s commitment to progressive values.
“Senator Peralta’s progressive agenda has never wavered,” she wrote in an email. “At every turn, he has stuck by his values and fought for the betterment of immigrants, students, teachers, women, union members and working families. The Democratic Party is united. Together they will represent the best interests of New Yorkers who are struggling in Trumps America. Any suggestion otherwise would be a disrespect to the historic measures that were taken yesterday.”