ALBANY - Primary challengers in eight state Senate districts around New York are hoping three simple letters will help convince the public it's time for a change: IDC.
IDC in this case refers to the Senate Independent Democratic Conference, a small, breakaway group of Democratic lawmakers that had an outsize impact on policy and political discussions at the Capitol for the past seven-plus years.
The conference, led by Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, disbanded under pressure from the political left earlier this year.
But the IDC's eight former members have all attracted primary challengers, who are banding together to try to oust the Democratic incumbents who once shared a coalition with the Republicans.
The races extend into the Hudson Valley.
Klein, whose district extends into Westchester, is squaring off against former Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo staffer Alessandra Biaggi.
Sen. David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown, Rockland County, is running against Julie Goldberg, a librarian and former Chestnut Ridge teacher.
The primary elections are Thursday, Sept. 13.
What was the IDC?
To put it simply: The IDC is a small group of Democratic senators who broke off from the rest of their Democratic colleagues to form their own conference.
The original four IDC members — Klein, Carlucci, Diane Savino of Staten Island and David Valesky of the Syracuse area — joined together in 2011, when Republicans took back the Senate after two tumultuous years of Democratic control marred by infighting and an ill-fated coup.
The IDC gained members along the way, growing to eight by the time it disbanded in April under pressure from progressive activists and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who brokered a peace deal among IDC members and the rest of the Senate Democrats.
Did the IDC partner with the GOP?
Yes, and that's largely why they've attracted Democratic primary challengers.
In 2012, Democrats won a slim majority of the 63-seat Senate.
But the IDC instead chose to partner with Republicans, jointly controlling the chamber in 2013 and 2014 and leaving the rest of the Senate Democrats — led by Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers — in the minority.
Republicans controlled an outright majority from 2015 to the present with the help of Sen. Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat (and non-IDC member) who sits with the GOP.
The IDC and Senate Republicans continued a coalition until the IDC disbanded, but Klein didn't have the power to block a bill from coming to the floor like he did in 2013 and 2014.
Who is challenging the IDC?
- Klein, whose Bronx-based district stretches into Mount Vernon and Pelham in Westchester County, is being challenged by Biaggi, a Pelham resident who most recently was an attorney in Cuomo's administration.
- Carlucci is facing Goldberg, a librarian and teacher.
- Sen. Tony Avella, D-Queens, is running against former New York City Comptroller John Liu.
- Sen. Jose Peralta, D-Queens, faces a challenge from Jessica Ramos, a union activist.
- Sen. Jesse Hamilton, D-Brooklyn, is running against Zellnor Myrie, a lawyer.
- Sen. Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, is being challenged by legal secretary Jasmine
- Sen. Marisol Alcantara, D-Manhattan, is squaring off against former New York City Council Member Robert Jackson.
- Sen. David Valesky, D-Oneida, Madison County, faces a challenge from Rachel May, sustainability education coordinator at Syracuse University.
What are the incumbents saying?
Klein's campaign declined to make him available for an interview for this article.
In a recent debate with Biaggi, Klein touted a number of left-leaning measures the Senate approved during the IDC's tenure, including increases in the minimum wage, raising the age of criminal responsibility and the SAFE Act, a series of gun-control measures.
He pointed to the election of President Donald Trump as the reason he re-united with the other Senate Democrats.
"Just the same as at the time it was important to have the Independent Democratic Conference, with the election of Donald Trump, we hit a brick wall," Klein said during the BronxNet debate.
"We find ourselves in the state of New York fighting national policies that hurt New Yorkers."
Carlucci said he had no regrets about joining the IDC, pointing to many of the same legislative accomplishments Klein did.
"I've worked across the aisle. I make no bones about it: I'll work with anybody that will work with me to get results for the people I represent," Carlucci said.
"I'm a Democrat, and I've never jeopardized my Democratic values and principles."
He continued: "I've worked with people with differing opinions from me but I think it's one of the things that has made me successful, that ability to put my opinions on the side to listen and find common ground."
What are the challengers saying?
The eight challengers have all worked together to try and elevate their criticism of the IDC, making it a central part of their campaigns.
They've faulted the former IDC members for partnering with the Republicans, pointing to the arrangement as the cause of Democratic division and a prior roadblock to a Democratic majority.
As it stands, Republicans only have control of the Senate with Felder's help. All 63 Senate seats are on the ballot this fall.
Biaggi said she feels a particular responsibility to perform well against Klein, who led the IDC from its inception to its dissolution.
"In my opinion, the only way to ensure that we can have a Democratic majority that sticks, that we can trust and that delivers is by making sure that the head of the snake is cut off," Biaggi said.
"That's the reality. He is the ringleader of this whole thing. Without Jeff Klein, the IDC does not exist."
Goldberg said Carlucci's participation in the IDC is what led her to run in the first place.
"My own (state) senator is part of a coalition that undermines New York values and prevents us from defending ourselves against the worst abuses of the Trump administration," Goldberg said.