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Monday, December 8, 2008

Malcolm's Maneuvers

State Senator Jeff Klein will retain his position near the top of the l
eadership pecking order, even if Pedro Espada becomes majority leader.

Liz Benjamin over at the Daily News politics blog has the latest (here and here) on the state Senate leadership transition/crisis/controversy/debacle (hard to pick just one word).

We reported here last week that, following a breathtaking game of political chicken, our very own State Senator-elect Pedro Espada emerged victorious and leapfrogged to the top tier of party leadership.

Over the weekend, though, tempers reportedly flared at a meeting of senators with their expecedt new leader, Malcolm Smith. They didn't like how things went down and there was talk that the fragile deal holding together the Democrats' new Senate majority would not hold.
Here's how the Times put it ...

... many [Senate Democrats] appear uncomfortable giving away so much power. According to several of those present, Mr. Smith insisted, as he had publicly, that the only firm element of the deal with the dissidents was to back him as Senate president.

But Mr. Espada, Mr. Kruger and the third member of their bloc, Senator Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx, have said publicly that Mr. Smith has already agreed, among other concessions, to make Mr. Espada the majority leader and Mr. Kruger the Senate finance chairman.
Smith held two press conferences today in Albany -- he apparently walked out of the first one without answering questions about the leadership struggle and then returned but still didn't answer any questions about the controversy.

But one piece of real news to come out of the second session with reporters is that State Senator Jeffrey Klein, who was second-in-command to Smith while he was minority leader will not be demoted with Espada's tenative elevation to majority leader (a title that the leader of the body traditionally holds. Now the leader will be president pro tempore). Under the plan, Klein will still be Smith's deputy and take on the title of vice president pro tempore (Smith is president pro tempore).

So Espada will have a powerful title -- majority leader -- but it is still rather unclear what exactly his responsibilities will be.


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