Open main menu

The Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) was a group of members of the New York State Senate from the Democratic Party who caucused separately from the other Democratic members of the State Senate from January 2011 to April 2018. At the time of its dissolution, the IDC included eight members: Leader Jeffrey D. Klein and Senators Marisol Alcantara, Tony Avella, David Carlucci, Jesse Hamilton, Jose Peralta, Diane Savino, and David Valesky.

Independent Democratic Conference
Conference LeaderJeffrey D. Klein
Deputy Conference LeaderDavid Valesky
Conference WhipDavid Carlucci
Conference Liaison to the Executive BranchDiane Savino
Assistant Conference Leader for Policy and AdministrationTony Avella
FoundedJanuary 5, 2011 (2011-01-05)
DissolvedApril 16, 2018 (2018-04-16)
Split fromDemocratic Party of New York
Merged intoDemocratic Party of New York
Fiscal conservatism
Social liberalism
Third Way
Green conservatism
Political positionCentre
Seats in the State Senate (at dissolution)
8 / 63

Klein, Savino, Valesky, and Carlucci formed the IDC in 2011 due to disagreements with John L. Sampson, the Democratic leader in the New York State Senate. The IDC allied itself with Senate Republicans throughout its existence. During the 2013–2014 legislative session, the IDC and the Senate Republican Conference controlled the Senate jointly, as the Senate Republicans did not have sufficient numbers to form a governing majority on their own.

After negotiations with Governor Andrew Cuomo, the IDC announced on April 4, 2018, that it would dissolve, its members would rejoin the Senate Democratic Conference, and that Klein would become the Deputy Democratic Conference Leader. The IDC dissolved on April 16. In the subsequent September 13, 2018 Democratic primaries, six of the eight former IDC members were defeated; only Carlucci and Savino won their respective primary contests.



The Democratic Party took control of the New York State Senate from the Republican Party in the November 2008 elections for the first time since 1964, controlling 32 out of the chambers' 62 seats. However, four Democratic senators, Pedro Espada Jr., Rubén Díaz Sr., Carl Kruger, and Hiram Monserrate did not support the Democratic Leader, Malcolm Smith.[1] In the new session, Espada and Monserrate voted against Smith as Majority Leader. Monserrate rejoined the Democrats, leaving a deadlocked 31-31 Senate, causing the 2009 New York State Senate leadership crisis. Jeffrey D. Klein, who became the Deputy Majority Leader after the 2008 elections, was charged with keeping Espada, Diaz, Kruger, and Monserrate in the Democratic coalition.[2]

Following the leadership crisis, Republicans won control of the chamber in the November 2010 elections.[3] In the fallout of the 2010 elections, Democrats replaced Klein as their chief strategist in December 2010.[4] Klein stepped down as deputy minority leader in January 2011, citing disagreements with John L. Sampson, the Minority Leader of the State Senate.[5]

Conference historyEdit

Creation and forming a coalitionEdit

The conference upon forming a coalition in 2012. Government:
  Republicans (30)
  Independent Democratic Conference (4)
  Non-Conference Democrat in Government (1)
  Democrats (28)

On January 5, 2011, Klein, along with three other Democratic senators (Diane Savino, David Valesky, and David Carlucci), announced the formation of a caucus within the State Senate called the Independent Democratic Conference. The four senators indicated that they no longer approved of Sampson's leadership.[6][7] Sampson offered the IDC members minor roles on committees, and Klein reached out to Dean Skelos, the Republican leader. Skelos agreed to give the four members chairmanships of standing committees.[8][9] Democratic senators, including Ruth Hassell-Thompson, criticized Klein for leaving the campaign committee in debt and for allegedly following his own personal ambitions.[10]

In the November 2012 elections, Democrats won a majority of seats in the State Senate.[11] Following the election, the IDC formed a bipartisan coalition with the Senate Republican Conference that enabled the two conferences to jointly control the Senate despite the Democrats' numerical majority. Under their power-sharing arrangement, the IDC and the Senate Republicans to "jointly decide what bills [would] reach the Senate floor each day of the session", would "dole out committee assignments", would "have the power to make appointments to state and local boards", and would "share negotiations over the state budget".[12] Sens. Klein and Skelos also agreed that the title of Senate President would shift back and forth between the two of them every two weeks.[12]

In December 2012, the IDC also recruited Malcolm Smith to join its ranks.[13] This move was part of a failed attempt by Smith to secure the Republican line in the New York City mayoral election; Smith was later found to have involved illegal bribery, which led to his expulsion from the IDC on April 14, 2013[6] and his eventual conviction on federal corruption charges.[14][15] On February 26, 2014, Sen. Tony Avella left the Senate Democratic Conference to join the IDC.[6]

Growth and fights with mainline DemocratsEdit

The conference at peak membership in December 2017. Government:
  Republicans (31)
  Independent Democratic Conference (8)
  Non-Conference Democrat in Government (1)
  Democrats (23)

Liberal activists working with the Democratic Party and the Working Families Party targeted Klein and Avella during the Democratic primary elections in September 2014, with Oliver Koppell challenging Klein and John Liu challenging Avella.[16] Due to pressure from Governor Andrew Cuomo and labor unions, Klein indicated in June 2014 that the IDC would rejoin the Democratic caucus after the November 2014 elections.[17] Still, the IDC supported Betty Jean Grant's unsuccessful primary challenge against Democratic Senator Timothy M. Kennedy because of Grant's pro-choice political stance.[18] Klein and Avella won their respective primaries.[19][20]

In the 2014 general election, Republicans won back the Senate majority.[21] The election results meant that Klein lost his position as co-leader, with Skelos taking over as the Senate Majority Leader and Temporary President of the Senate and regaining sole control over which bills would reach the Senate floor.[12][22][6] Though the new Democratic leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, had continued discussions with Klein about the IDC rejoining the Democrats,[23] the IDC members decided to remain allied with the Republicans in the 2015 legislative session[22][24] despite their conference's diminished role.[12]

During the 2015 session, the IDC successfully pushed the Republicans to include paid family leave and a $15 per hour minimum wage in the state budget.[16] Klein also pushed for more funding to the New York City Housing Authority,[25] and obtained $100 million. During Skelos' 2015 trial for corruption, a wiretapped conversation was aired where Skelos argued that in their power sharing agreement, the IDC would have no real power and it would serve to hinder Democrats by keeping them divided. Klein indicated that this recording would not change the IDC agreement with Republicans.[26]

After some of its members faced primary challenges in 2014, the IDC formed its own campaign committee through an agreement with the Independence Party of New York.[27] Heading into the November 2016 elections, Klein would not commit to rejoining the Senate Democratic Conference.[28] After the elections, newly-elected senator Marisol Alcantara and second-term senator Jesse Hamilton joined the IDC.[29] Despite pressure from liberal activists to unite the 24 mainstream Democrats with the IDC and Felder to form a 32-member majority,[30] and despite attempts by Stewart-Cousins to involve Cuomo in the situation,[31] the IDC and Felder continued their relationships with the 31 Senate Republicans, giving Republicans the majority in the 2017 legislative session.[32] In January 2017, Jose Peralta joined the IDC.[33]

Calls for reunificationEdit

In January 2017, following the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, the Senate Democratic Conference and grassroots activists (including members of Rise and Resist and several Indivisible groups) stepped up their criticism of the IDC for splitting the Democratic vote in the State Senate and enabling Republicans to maintain control of the chamber.[34][35][36][37]

In early May 2017, it was revealed that members of the IDC, among them Savino and Peralta, received stipends ("lulus") normally reserved only for chairmen of committees, who, in these cases, were Republicans. The payments appear to have been approved by Republican leadership in the State Senate.[38] It later emerged that this was also made possible through the actions of staff who falsely listed the members of the IDC as committee chairmen.[39] The scandal was investigated by the New York Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Attorney for Brooklyn; as of March 2018 (roughly a year later) the status of that inquiry was not known.[40] At the time, the members of the IDC continued to refuse attempts by the Democratic Party to have the conference join with the "mainstream" Democratic Conference completely or in a coalition.[41]

On May 24, 2017, Senator Simcha Felder, the only Democrat (outside the IDC) who caucused with and voted for the Republican leadership, wrote a letter to the IDC urging that they rejoin the mainline Democrats; the letter suggested that Felder might rejoin the Democratic Conference himself if the IDC did so.[42]


The New York Senate following the dissolution of the Independent Democratic Conference in April 2018.
  Republicans (31)
  Non-Conference Democrat in Government (1)
  Democrats (31)

On April 4, 2018, the IDC announced that it would dissolve, its members would rejoin the Senate Democratic Conference, and that Klein would become the Deputy Democratic Conference Leader. The announcement followed a meeting called by Governor Andrew Cuomo at which Cuomo requested that the IDC reunite with the Senate Democratic Conference.[43] On April 16, the IDC was dissolved.[44]

Following the purported dissolution of the IDC, Avella, Alcantara, Carlucci and Hamilton were all stripped of their committee chairships by Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan.[45] In addition, 39 IDC staffers were laid off, and Klein was required to move out of his office suite and relinquish his state vehicle.[46] Despite their return to the Senate Democratic Conference, all eight former members of the IDC faced challengers in the 2018 Democratic primaries.[47][48]

In June 2018, a trial court judge found the IDC's fundraising arrangement with the Independence Party illegal.[49] On July 20, 2018, the New York State Board of Elections directed the eight former members of the IDC to return all contributions they had received from the Senate Independence Campaign Committee.[50]

2018 State Senate electionsEdit

In the Democratic Party primary elections held on September 13, 2018, all eight former members of the IDC at the time of its dissolution faced challengers.[51] Six were defeated, attributed to backlash against the former IDC: John Liu defeated Avella,[52] Robert Jackson defeated Alcantara,[53] Alessandra Biaggi defeated Klein,[54] Jessica Ramos defeated Peralta,[55] Zellnor Myrie defeated Hamilton,[56] and Rachel May defeated Valesky.[57] Carlucci and Savino won renomination.[58][59]

As part of New York's electoral fusion laws allowing candidates to run on multiple ballot lines in an election, each of the six defeated IDC candidates appeared on the ballot for the November 6, 2018 general election on at least one third-party line. All six were endorsed by the Independence Party of New York; Avella, Valesky, Hamilton and Peralta were endorsed by the Women's Equality Party of New York, and Peralta was endorsed by the Reform Party of New York State.[60][61] However, most of the six defeated senators suspended their reelection campaigns after the primary election; Avella was the only one to announce that he would continue to run in the general election.[62][63][64] Although Avella appeared on the Women's Equality Party ballot line, after his primary loss to John Liu, the party, created by Governor Cuomo, announced that it was supporting Liu instead.[65] In the November general election, all six were defeated by the same challengers who had done so in the primary; Carlucci and Savino were reelected.[66]


2018 membersEdit

Former membersEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Democrats Are Poised to Control Albany". The New York Times. November 5, 2008. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  2. ^ "Jeff Klein: The Bronx Democrat Keeping the GOP in Power". Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  3. ^ "Recount hands Republicans control of state Senate". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  4. ^ "Katz: Klein out as top Dem strategist". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  5. ^ "Bronx's State Sen. Klein quits No. 2 Dem post". Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d admin (March 21, 2016). "Jeff Klein's wild ride". Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  7. ^ Kaplan, Thomas; Confessore, Nicholas (January 5, 2011). "4 Democrats in State Senate Break With Leaders". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  8. ^ Aris, Hezi (January 26, 2011). "Independent Democratic Conference Members to Chair Legislative Committees". Yonkers Tribune. Archived from the original on February 11, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  9. ^ "Klein and Co. upset Democrats some more". Riverdale Press. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  10. ^ Vielkind, Jimmy (January 18, 2011). "These party ties don't bind: Democratic renegade Klein taking flak for Senate losses". Times Union. Albany, New York. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  11. ^ Kaplan, Thomas (November 7, 2012). "G.O.P. in Surprise Fight to Hold New York Senate". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  12. ^ a b c d Roy, Yancey (December 5, 2012). "Skelos praises his Senate deal with Dems". Newsday. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  13. ^ a b Kaplan, Thomas; Hakim, Danny (December 5, 2012). "Coalition Is to Control State Senate as Dissident Democrats Join With Republicans". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  14. ^ McKinley, Jesse (September 10, 2014). "Democrats Reject Indicted State Senator in Queens but Renominate One in Brooklyn". New York Times. p. A24. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  15. ^ Orden, Erica (February 5, 2015). "Former N.Y. State Senator Malcolm Smith Convicted of Bribery". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 3, 2015.
  16. ^ a b King, David Howard. "2016 A Far Different Election Year for Independent Democrats". Gotham Gazette. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  17. ^ "Senate's Independent Democratic Conference announces end to alliance with Republicans – UPDATED". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  18. ^ McCarthy, Robert J. (January 25, 2014). "Senate caucus plans to back Grant in Democratic primary". The Buffalo News. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  19. ^ "Jeff Klein Defeats Oliver Koppell, Promises Strong Future For IDC". New York Observer. September 10, 2014. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  20. ^ "John Liu concedes to State. Sen Tony Avella one week after Democratic Primary". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  21. ^ Mckinley, Jesse (November 5, 2014). "In Rebuke to Democrats, Voters Return Control of New York Senate to G.O.P." The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  22. ^ a b "Klein, diminished but still desired, sides with power". Capital New York. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  23. ^ "Senate Democratic leader Stewart-Cousins talking with IDC". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  24. ^ "GOP takes full control of NY Senate, but retains 'coalition' with Valesky, IDC". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  25. ^ "Klein pushes NYCHA-heavy housing agenda". Politico. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  26. ^ "Independent Democrats not ready to abandon NYS Senate GOP". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  27. ^ "LOVETT: Five Senate Dems create their own campaign committee". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  28. ^ Precious, Tom (September 16, 2016). "Cuomo: Control of Senate up to IDC". The Buffalo News. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  29. ^ Mckinley, Jesse (November 7, 2016). "Breakaway Group in New York Senate Becomes an Island of Power". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  30. ^ "Cuomo meets with Senate Dems, stays quiet amid rising noise". Politico. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  31. ^ "Cuomo stands by as Senate goes Republican". Politico. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  32. ^ "IDC will once again partner with Senate GOP". Times Union. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  33. ^ "State Senate Dems' splinter group gains 8th member: Jose Peralta". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  34. ^ Yee, Vivian; Mckinley, Jesse (February 6, 2017). "Breakaway Democrats in New York Feel Trump Backlash". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  35. ^ "Gianaris hits back at Klein, says IDC enables GOP, Trump". Times Union. January 31, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  36. ^ "IDC opposition escalated throughout 2017". TimesLedger. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  37. ^ "Progressive group targets Cuomo and Senate IDC". NY Daily News. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  38. ^ Mckinley, Jesse (May 9, 2017). "For Group of Breakaway Democrats in New York, It Pays to Be No. 2". The New York Times. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  39. ^ Mckinley, Jesse (May 11, 2017). "False Payroll Information Allows 3 State Senators to Collect Thousands". The New York Times.
  40. ^ Mckinley, Jesse (March 16, 2018). "No Lulus for You: Comptroller Threatens to Withhold Lawmakers' Payments".
  41. ^ Mckinley, Jesse (May 23, 2017). "Stipend Scandal Fuels Divide Among New York's Democratic State Senators". The New York Times.
  42. ^ Mckinley, Jesse (May 24, 2017). "Simcha Felder Tells Fellow Rogue Democrats to Rejoin the Party Fold". The New York Times. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  43. ^ Goldmacher, Shane (April 4, 2018). "Democrats in New York State Senate Reconcile After Years of Infighting". The New York Times. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  44. ^ Wang, Vivian (April 16, 2018). "As Session Resumes, a Democratic Truce in Albany Seems Uneasy". The New York Times. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  45. ^ Lombardo, David; Silberstein, Rachel (April 6, 2018). "Ex-IDC senators stripped of committee posts". Times Union. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  46. ^ Lombardo, David; Silberstein, Rachel (May 19, 2018). "39 ex-IDC staffers purged after unity deal". Times Union. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  47. ^ Bragg, Chris (May 30, 2018). "Despite joining Democratic fold, Carlucci gets primary challenge". Times Union. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  48. ^ Segers, Grace (March 6, 2018). "Additional progressive challengers take on the IDC". City & State. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  49. ^ Lombardo, David (June 7, 2018). "IDC-Independence Party campaign finance deal declared illegal". Times Union. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  50. ^ McKinley, Jesse (July 24, 2018). "Former I.D.C. Senators Are Ordered to Return Campaign Money". The New York Times. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  51. ^ West, Melanie Grayce (September 10, 2018). "New York State's Breakaway Democrats Face Primary Challengers". Retrieved October 22, 2018 – via
  52. ^ Bayside-Douglaston. "NY Election Results: John Liu Ousts Tony Avella In Senate Primary | Bayside, NY Patch". Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  53. ^ , September 13, 2018, by Associated Press. "Former NYC councilman Robert Jackson beats state Sen. Marisol Alcantara | WPIX 11 New York". Retrieved September 14, 2018.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  54. ^ , September 13, 2018, by Associated Press. "Alessandra Biaggi defeats Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein in NY primary | WPIX 11 New York". Retrieved September 14, 2018.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  55. ^ Hallum, Mark. "Ramos upsets Peralta in Democratic primary". TimesLedger. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  56. ^ Prospect Heights-Crown Heights. "Zellnor Myrie Wins Crown Heights State Senate Race | Prospect Heights, NY Patch". Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  57. ^ Parsnow, Luke (September 13, 2018). "In stunning upset, Rachel May defeats Dave Valesky in state Senate Democratic primary". WSTM. Sinclair Broadcast Group. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  58. ^ Lieberman, Steve (September 13, 2018). "Carlucci defeats Goldberg in Democratic primary for 38th Senate district". The Journal News. Gannett Company. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  59. ^ Wang, Vivian (September 13, 2018). "Democratic Insurgents Topple 6 New York Senate Incumbents". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  60. ^ Susan Arbetter [@sarbetter] (September 14, 2018). "Here's a corrected rundown of the party lines that former IDCers' who lost their Democratic primaries are still on: Klein: Ind Valesky: Ind; WEP Peralta: Ind; Reform; WEP Hamilton: Ind; WEP Alcantara: Ind Avella: Ind; WEP" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  61. ^ Silberstein, Rachel (September 20, 2018). "Not all of New York's defeated ex-IDC members have conceded". Times Union. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
  62. ^ Roy, Yancey. "Renegade Dem Tony Avella will continue run on minor-party lines". Newsday. Newsday. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  63. ^ Reisman, Nick. "Avella To Press Re-Election Bid After Losing Primary". State of Politics. Spectrum News. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  64. ^ Barkan, Ross. "The One Former IDC Senator Who Refuses To Fade Away". Gothamist. WNYC. Archived from the original on October 19, 2018. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  65. ^ Brady, Ryan. "Avella has WEP line, if not its support". Queens Chronicle. Queens Chronicle. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  66. ^ "New York Election Results". New York Times. November 6, 2018. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  67. ^ a b c d e "Senate Leadership". October 4, 2015. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  68. ^ "Sen. Jose Peralta defects to IDC". Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  69. ^ "Jesse Hamilton promises to join Senate's IDC". Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  70. ^ "Alcantara's primary win a major victory for Senate IDC". Retrieved February 8, 2017.