Coup de Villains: The Albany Takeover So Far


Dear Leader: misty watercolor memories of Pedro Espada Jr. here.

Malcolm Smith says he’s still in charge, but he hasn’t been able to achieve much over the past five months of Democratic rule in the state senate, and we doubt he has the resources to overturn the overthrow of his leadership today. His next move, probably to court, will be telling. Though the senate is scheduled to reconvene Wednesday afternoon, Smith says he won’t call for it until the leadership issue is resolved — but no one knows if his call would be heeded in any case.

Till then we can surmise this much:

Golisano’s party. It’s unusual for an unelected person to be in the thick of a legislative overthrow, at least in putative democracies. But there was Tom Golisano, paycheck tycoon and three times an unsuccessful independent candidate for Governor, appearing with new senate president Espada and returning majority leader Dean Skelos at the post-coup press conference. Golisano lauded the senate rules changes quickly passed by the new regime, and invoked the reformist Brennan Center as their inspiration — though the Center itself is not so sanguine: “Some of these items seem like real improvements,” writes the Center’s blogger Laura Seago, but “in the past, Senate Republicans have been known to claim to enact reforms while crafting the language of the changes in such a way as to preserve the status quo — or make the situation worse.”

Golisano may indeed be concerned with procedural issues, but the content of the site of his one-man PAC, Responsible New York, indicates that he’s more interested in reducing taxes on property, of which he owns a good deal. In fact he recently said he was moving to Florida to escape such taxes (while retaining his New York-based PAC).

Having been unable to get himself elected, Golisano in the last campaign season tried to get his preferred reforms enacted by contributing heavily to candidates who might share his agenda. But it wasn’t a throw-the-bums-out exercise, as most of Golisano’s beneficiaries were incumbents. This suggests that Golsiano wants change, but also wants it administered by people he knows and who owe him or might expect something from him. The new state senate coalition, if it holds, is advertised as bipartisan — which is also Responsible New York’s angle. In any case, its new order is not devoted to the interests of anything so parochial as a political party.

Not a Great Pride Month. Regarding the pending gay marriage bill, you can forget it. Whatever deal is worked out will certainly have to involve anti-gay-marriage crusader Ruben Diaz Sr., and he’s made it clear that blocking the bill is a priority for him. The only outside shot is if the Republicans get very Machiavellian and try to gain liberal goodwill for their new regime by greenlighting gay marriage — the local Log Cabin Republicans did claim that the GOP leadership previously informed their senators they were free to “vote their conscience” on the matter. But such a three-rail shot is unlikely.

Malcolm Smith is running out of friends. Elizabeth Benjamin points out that while both the statement of the Working Families Party and that of assembly speaker Sheldon Silver decry the coup, neither says anything about the allegedly former majority leader.

City stuff. City Hall News: “Surprise Republican Takeover Could Foil Mayoral Control [of Schools].” GothamSchools: “Republican takeover of Senate could solidify mayoral control.” Pick ’em. The Mayor is a little worried that the chaos in Albany will impact pending city budget legislation. There is some irony in the fact that a mayor who overthrew term limits is being hassled by an overthrow upstate.