BY JON CRONIN
On the heels of state Sen. Jose Peralta’s (D-Elmhurst) defecting to the Independent Democratic Conference, state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) dropped by the Queens Tribune to discuss how the IDC affects state politics as well as changes to the nation’s political landscape in the era of President Donald Trump.
While many county Democrats and some of Peralta’s constituents disagreed with his party move, the senator maintains that his switch was made with the best interests of his constituents in mind.
Gianaris disagrees. He believes that the move took power from the Democratic Party, which could be pushing through a more progressive agenda for a historically Democratic state.
“We have a majority of Democrats in the Senate. We should be dictating policy and getting results,” he said.
He also contends that the IDC often votes along Republican lines, despite comments by state senators such as Tony Avella (D-Bayside) that their voting records have not changed since making the move.
“The IDC is the master of excuses,” Gianaris said. “They haven’t taken responsibility for what they’ve done.”
He said that Democrats won four seats, bringing the legislative body to 29-33 in the Democrats’ favor in one cycle, in 2012. However, he added, the IDC went with the Republicans.
“The IDC is the enemy of the Democratic Party,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re Democrats if they vote with the Republicans. Peralta is by virtue of the Board of Elections a Democrat. But the IDC is in a coalition with the Republicans. He isn’t helping people who care about protecting ethics reform, campaign finance reform, Raise the Age, immigrants’ rights, the DREAM Act, Roe v. Wade. If you’re a Republican in these districts, you should be happy. If you’re a Democrat who cares about these issues, you’d be very disappointed.”
After recent protests and petitions to get Peralta to return to the Democratic Party, Gianaris said that the county party— without solicitation—has been approached by numerous candidates who want to run against Peralta during the next election.
“The real challenge will be to sift through all the candidates,” he said. “It’s not being driven by us. What we’re seeing is people getting educated and politically active. The last thing they want is people enabling the Republicans’ agenda. The IDC is bad for Democratic policy.”
Gianaris also addressed the election of Trump, and said that despite the president’s having grown up in the Empire State, his political stances do not reflect its residents.
“It’s a scary time,” he said. “It’s a bad moment in history and people are going to feel it. It’s a bad time to prop up the GOP.”
Gianaris believes that a solid Democratic leadership in the state legislature is what New York needs to move forward and oppose Trump’s decisions.
“It’s not just the Trump boogeyman; policy coming out of the DNC needs to be addressed on a state level,” he said. “The GOP in the New York legislature is one of Donald Trump’s biggest boosters. We exist as a party largely based on values different from the GOP. The decisions [the IDC] is making is having consequences on legislation.”
With the current infrastructure of New York State’s economy and its dependence on federal dollars, Gianaris said that there is “no plan B” if the president decides to defund sanctuary cities.
“It’s a legitimate crisis if it happens,” he said. “We get billions of funds from the federal government. We can’t even plan for that happening. If the federal money dries up, it’s a huge problem.”
Regarding his support of a second term for Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gianaris said he would take a “wait and see” approach.
“I think I’ll wait to see what happens,” he said. “If it’s between him and the senator [Avella] who caucuses with the Republicans, I’ll support the mayor. No one serious has stepped forward.”
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin