Nearly 40 demonstrators lined up in front state Sen. Marisol Alcantara’s office Friday, demanding the freshman lawmaker sever ties with the Independent Democratic Conference.
The IDC, a group of eight breakaway Democrats in the state senate that currently holds an informal majority coalition with Republicans, has received renewed flack and attention since the election of President Donald Trump last year as some local activists have sought to remove any vestige of Republican control from Albany.
Those sentiments finally reached Alcantara’s district office last week when members of a number of different groups — including Indivisible, True Blue, and Rise and Resist — marched and chanted, while eight representatives were allowed to go upstairs for a meeting with the senator in her office.
“I’m hoping that Alcantara will drop out of the IDC,” protester Ettie Taichman said. “I’m hoping in this time of the Trump administration when we’re also nervous about the laws that he may pass and what he is doing — and that may pass down to New York State — we need to have a Democratic legislature.”
The IDC’s coalition with Republicans is not new, but many activists — especially those living in Alcantara’s district — are. The reason, according to demonstrator Steve Saporito, is many people don’t know what the IDC is.
“I have a friend who lives in the area,” he said. “She is very informed and active in politics. But the other day we were at dinner, I said to her, ‘Oh you live in an IDC district,’ and she didn’t even know what that meant.”
Alcantara won the 31st senate seat after Adriano Espaillat vacated it this past summer in his successful run for Congress. Espaillat quickly endorsed Alcantara after his historic primary win in June to replace Charles Rangel.
Despite Espaillat’s kingmaker play, Alcantara still needed help, according to James Scholtz. He’s a constituent who attended Friday’s protest, but only as an observer.
Earlier this year, Scholtz said he visited Alcantara in Albany where she told him the IDC was the only Democratic group willing to donate to her campaign, a sentiment she echoed in news reports after wining a four-way primary Sept. 13.
Instead of protesting the rookie senator, Scholtz opted to try and understand her reasons for joining the conference.
“I’m trying to figure out who the bad guy is, whether it’s the IDC itself or its members,” Scholtz said. “I’m not sure what her loyalty is to them besides money, which isn’t a good reason. But (I am) trying to find constructive ways of, one, working with and interacting with IDC members to get them to abandon the caucus, or remove them.”
But IDC members like state Sen. Jeffrey Klein, who founded the conference, says they aren’t the bad guys at all. Instead, he and his fellow members have been able to break a partisan mold in the state senate, pushing progressive policy issues through an otherwise gridlocked legislature.
“If I feel that we can’t continue to get the core things that we want to do in the Independent Democratic Conference, then yeah, I don’t think there should be an Independent Democratic Conference,” Klein told The Press on April 21. “Until then, I don’t see why we shouldn’t continue to try to govern.”