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Queens Chronicle

Malcolm Smith joins GOP in NYS Senate

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Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 10:25 am, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

Hollis and Jamaica voted Republican last month. Overwhelmingly. Surprised? So are the people of Hollis and Jamaica.

They of course did not vote Republican at all. The black community is by far the most reliable Democratic voting bloc there is, casting more than 90 percent of its ballots that way.

And that’s in elections when President Obama is not at the top of the ticket.

Yet this week Southeast Queens residents learned that one of the officials they sent to Albany is leaning a little to the right. So far to the right, in fact, that he’s fallen right out of the actual Democratic Party into the Independent Democratic Caucus.

That official is state Sen. Malcolm Smith. He’s been floating the idea of running for mayor as a Republican — two other longtime Democrats have already decided they’re doing the same — and his jump to the IDC may be designed to help that goal. Or it may just be a naked power grab. Or both.

The state Senate has been controlled by a Republican majority for decades, other than a two-year stint, 2009-10, when the Democrats led the body. In fact, none other than Smith was in charge for much of the time.

It was a disaster, with spending skyrocketing in the midst of the recession, political coups, wheeling and dealing leading to investigations and voters putting the Republicans back in charge — albeit by a slim majority —the next chance they got.

They also elected centrist Gov. Cuomo, who seems quite pleased to have the GOP in charge of the Senate while his fellow Democrats retain their much tighter, more disciplined control of the Assembly under apparent Speaker for Life Sheldon Silver.

The Senate GOP, ever willing to retain its power by just about all means necessary, tried to expand its majority in the last election by creating a new Senate district, widening the body from 62 to 63 seats. Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau) and his compatriots thought winning the new district would be a cakewalk. Instead it’s likely going to a Democrat.

So the party moved to offering any Democrat who’d throw aside his beliefs some goodies like choice committee assignments, bigger offices and that great vote-buying tool, bringing home the bacon.

Skelos found several takers, including, most notably, freshman Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), who had made it publicly known he’d jump ship if offered enough by the Republicans.

At least Felder represents a community largely compromising Orthodox Jewish voters who are socially conservative, sometimes fiscally, and even occasionally vote Republican. One might see some common ground there, something other than pure opportunism to justify Felder’s flip.

It’s hard to see that in Smith’s case. He represents a mostly working-class black community. The only time he’s publicly sounded like a Republican in recent memory is when he came out in favor of stop and frisk for crime fighting.

The extra irony of Smith’s joining the IDC is that it was born a few years ago, created by Democrats who wanted to break free of the Democratic leader at the time. That leader?

Malcolm Smith.

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