Felder: Cuomo hasn’t talked to me about reuniting the Senate since 2017

State Sen. Simcha Felder
State Sen. Simcha Felder
Frank G. Runyeon
State Sen. Simcha Felder.

Felder: Cuomo hasn’t talked to me about reuniting the Senate since 2017

The Brooklyn lawmaker refutes a report that the governor called him.
April 16, 2018

State Sen. Simcha Felder says he’s still waiting for a call from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

New York politicos buzzed about a personal appeal by Cuomo to Felder, a conservative Democrat who has flummoxed party loyalists by caucusing with the Republican state Senate majority since 2012.

But Felder says a story in the New York Post is inaccurate. That conversation is old news, Felder said.

The governor has not spoken to Felder on the topic of rejoining the Democrats since well before the IDC announced it was dissolving and folding back into the Democratic party, Felder said. Furthermore, he said, no one gave him any advance notice about the IDC’s plans to reunite, either.

“The governor has not. We have not had a conversation recently,” Felder told City & State on Monday in response to questions about whether the governor had approached him on the topic of reuniting with the Democrats. While he could not provide an exact date, Felder said the last conversation he had with Cuomo on the topic of reunification was as long ago as last summer but certainly before November 2017. He recalls having that brief talk with Cuomo on his cell phone in a hot parking lot in the Bronx.

As of press time, the governor’s office had not responded to questions about when the governor and Felder last spoke about the matter or if anyone from the executive chamber had reached out to Felder since the IDC and Democrat reunited.

“That’s why that story is inaccurate,” Felder said. “(The reporter) put together – you know, I don’t know if you ever buy a veggie burger that’s made of all the leftovers? That’s what that article was.”

Felder said he is continuing to wait out the results of the April 24 primaries that will determine which party has more seats in the Senate before he makes any moves. For now, he’s sitting with the Republicans.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to leave, but I need a compelling reason to leave,” Felder said, adding that no Democratic representative has approached him with any offer, either. “There’s an election that’s going to take place a week from tomorrow.”

When the IDC reunification deal was announced in early April, Felder told City & State at the time that he wouldn’t make any immediate decision. “As someone with no allegiance to either party, I’d have to be an idiot to do anything now,” he said. “How do my constituents gain? … So, either the Republicans win and I’m 33 and it certainly doesn’t make sense for me to move at that time. Or the Democrats win both seats and we’re back to the horsetrading that we talked about before.”

Another consideration is that Felder now has a primary challenger from local lawyer and progressive activist Blake Morris. When asked if Morris’ primary run might push him to reunite or if it was a way to apply pressure to him by Democrats eager to recapture the Senate majority, Felder said that if it was, it was not the right approach.

“I don’t respond to threats well,” Felder said, spacing his words with an unusually firm tone.

Then, Felder fell back into a wry, playful disposition.

“It only encourages me. You can ask the principal I had in yeshiva,” he said. “Whenever I was disciplined, it had the opposite effect – I made more trouble.”

Felder also weighed in on pending bills that are believed to be at the top of the governor’s post-budget agenda.

Early voting and other voting reforms:

“I’m in favor,” Felder said, but added a caveat. “I’m in favor of a change if and only if you require identification to vote. If part of the early voting or the other changes would come along with making sure that people have to show proper ID to vote. I don’t consider proper ID disenfranchising to voters.”

Criminal justice reform:

“I would be interested in criminal justice reform if they got family court open 24 hours a day,” Felder said.

Closing the “LLC loophole”:

“I’m opposed to doing anything about that. At the end of the day you can’t keep making changes thinking that you’re somehow going to prevent someone from doing the wrong thing. Somebody once told me that installing an alarm in your house is to prevent somebody who’s honest who might be desperate to steal, but it doesn’t really stop someone who is determined to get in.”

10-day waiting period for firearms:

“I don’t want to answer that.”

Toughening rent regulations and ending vacancy decontrol:

“I don’t want to answer that.”

DREAM Act:

“I have mixed feelings about it,” Felder said. “On one hand, I feel that it’s a good thing that people who are here should be able to get a free education because at the end of the day if they’re going to be here then they might as well get the free education and be trained. On the other hand, I understand that people such as myself say that we take out loans, we go into hock to get our kids an education when people who are not here legally are getting a free education. I sometimes feel one way, I sometimes feel the other way.”

Frank Runyeon
Frank G. Runyeon
is a freelance investigative reporter in New York City.
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