ALBANY - A long-running divide among the state Senate's warring Democratic factions appeared to deepen Monday, despite the party taking over a numerical majority the same day.
The head of a breakaway conference of eight Democrats publicly criticized Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, on Monday, faulting her and Deputy Minority Leader Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, for a lack of Democratic unity behind various progressive issues.
Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, told The Buffalo News that Stewart-Cousins and Gianaris should step down.
"Unless the present leadership structure in the Democratic conference changes, it’s going to be impossible for Democrats to unite around these kinds of issues,’’ Klein, whose district includes part of southern Westchester County, told the paper.
A spokeswoman for Klein confirmed the comments Monday.
In a statement, Mike Murphy, spokesman for Senate Democrats and Stewart-Cousins, accused Klein of "lashing out" because of the "enormous pressure" he's facing from Democratic leaders to reunite.
Klein's call came the same day the Senate swore in Manhattan Sen. Brian Benjamin, making him the 32nd Democratic member of the 63-seat chamber -- technically a razor-thin majority.
But the ongoing divide among Democrats has kept the GOP in power, despite recent calls from congressional members and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for the party to unite.
That divide has only grown deeper in recent weeks, with Stewart-Cousins calling for an investigation into a legislative practice that saw at least eight Republicans and Independent Democratic Conference members receive stipends for chairmanship positions they didn't actually hold.
Sen. Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat, sits with the Republicans, giving them a functional majority. Klein's conference is allied with the GOP, but is separate and meets on its own.
Klein has pledged his group, which also includes Rockland Sen. David Carlucci and six others, will remain its own separate entity.
The IDC, as its known, has launched a "Call the Roll" effort on social media, urging his Democratic colleagues to publicly signal support for issues like strengthening abortion rights and making college tuition assistance available to all regardless of immigration status.
The move is meant, in part, to highlight divergent positions among some of the main Senate Democratic Conference.
Murphy called on Klein to rejoin the Senate Democrats.
"If Senator Klein wants (to) have a say on who should lead the Democratic Conference we call on him to rejoin the Democratic Conference and 'call the roll,'" Murphy said.
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