ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — When he seek re-election this fall, Jeff Klein, the co-leader of the state Senate, will face an opponent from within his own party who has some name recognition.
Former state Attorney General Oliver Koppell is launching a primary challenge against the Bronx senator, whom he has criticized for breaking with fellow Democrats in the power-sharing deal that keeps Republicans in control of the Senate.
Koppell, also a former New York City councilmember and state assemblyman, said Monday he decided to run because action on progressive issues has stalled during the alliance between Klein’s five-member Independent Democratic Conference and the Senate Republicans.
“Sen. Klein has betrayed the Democratic Party, but more importantly, he’s betrayed the very principals he pretends to espouse,” Koppell told The Associated Press. “As a result of what Sen. Klein has done — really to feed his own ego and to maximize his own personal power — important political and policy objectives are being foiled.”
Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos can prevent bills from getting to a floor vote by using the veto power that he and Klein hold under their agreement. Koppell says the arrangement has blocked Democrats, who have a numerical majority in the Senate, from being able to enact a higher minimum wage, campaign finance reform and a series of bills that would protect women’s rights, which includes a contentious late-term abortion proposal.
Candice Giove, a spokeswoman for Klein, was quick to reject Koppell’s comments, saying that the “failed” Democratic Conference is best known for its corruption and dysfunction.
“They’re the traitors to the Democratic Party’s fundamental ideals of honest and efficient government,” Giove added.
The challenger was an assemblyman for 23 years before being appointed to fill the final year left in the term of Attorney General Robert Adams, who resigned. Koppel sought a full term as attorney general in 1994 but lost in the Democratic primary. In 2002, he was elected to the City Council, a position he held until 2013. Although Koppell has name recognition, he faces an uphill fight against the incumbent. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has endorsed Klein, who as of January, had more than $1.5 million in his campaign bank account.
Koppell saids it is unlikely that his campaign fund will match Klein’s, but he has been assured that he’ll have enough money to promote his platform.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was quick to endorse Koppell’s agenda.
“It is always our policy to support candidates that will stand up for these values and who are committed to joining the Democratic Conference,” Josh Cherwin, executive director of the DSCC, said in a statement.
The 34th Senate district, which Klein has held for 10 years, encompasses the Bronx and part of Westchester County.
Green Party candidate Carl Lundgren is also running for the seat.
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