ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York State Sen.-elect Simcha Felder is a Democrat, but has decided to serve with the Republican conference when his term begins.
The move has further eroded the tentative majority Democrats appeared to win in elections a week ago.
Senator-elect Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat, issued a statement after meeting with Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos. Felder won the 17th Senate District over a Republican incumbent, David Storbin, in the heavily Democratic district.
Felder had made it clear in closing weeks of the campaign that he might sit with Republicans if they could better serve his constituents.
Republicans went into the elections with a 33-29 majority. But on Election Day, Democrats appeared to have won a 31-30 majority, with their candidates leading in two other races that will be decided weeks from now by counts of absentee ballots.
Felder’s move would even the field pending the two races that are too close to call.
His decision also shows he has faith in a Republican-led coalition to run the Senate, where the majority has near-complete control over policies and spending as well as assigning lucrative leadership posts.
That coalition, however, will depend on four breakaway Democrats in what they call the Independent Democratic Conference, who have been closely allied with Republicans. That conference isn’t yet saying if it will side with Republicans to form a coalition majority or return to the Democratic conference, creating a Democratic majority for the first time since 2008-1010.
“Earlier today, I met with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos,” Felder said in a statement. “We discussed the issues that concern my constituents. By joining him and the Senate Majority Conference I will be able to serve the people who elected me, and advance a legislative agenda that best meets their needs.”
It is illegal to cast a vote in the state Legislature in exchange for any compensation or favor. Republicans said only that policies such as job creation were discussed.
Felder, a former City Councilman, said as long ago as April that he was not sure which party he would caucus with in Albany, City & State reported at the time. He told the publication he did not see himself as “someone who is part of either party.”
He also told City & State he thought President Barack Obama had been a “terrible president” and would not vote for him in 2012 as in 2008.
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