Albany, NY, Dec 10, 2012 — The newly formed coalition in the Senate is facing some heat from African American leaders, who says blacks and Hispanics have been left out.
The new governing coalition includes just one African-American and no Hispanics, prompting criticism from, among others, the Rev. Al Sharpton and NAACP President Hazel Dukes.
Senator Klein, who says he respects Sharpton and has even joined him in past civil rights protests, says blacks and Hispanics aren't being left out, and they are free to join the new coalition.
"The Independent Democratic conference is not an exclusive club," Klein said. "It's open to anyone who's serious about governing."
Reverend Sharpton wants more committee posts given to Senators of color, Klein says it's not about that.
"There's more to governing than committee posts," he said.
Klein says he hopes the new coalition will ultimately be judged on policy, by passing bills to reform New York City's "stop and frisk" law, which critics say unfairly burdens young African-Americans, and by passing a bill known as the Dream Act. It would allow children of undocumented immigrants to go to college.
Senator Ruben Diaz says any claims by the IDC that they are not engaged in a power grab is "baloney".
"You care about yourselves ," said Diaz. "Just admit it."
Senator Diaz was a member of the self-titled "Four Amigos". The four Senators in late 2008 formed a faction within the then newly-elected Majority Party Democrats, and demanded leadership and committee posts to expand their influence. Diaz says the IDC members are "copycats", but he says what they are trying to do is "a lot worse" than what the Amigos did.
Senator Klein disputes that.