Defecting Makes Albany a Bit Less Dysfunctional
Aug 27, 2014 | 1876 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On paper, current State Senator Tony Avella and the candidate to replace him in this year’s Democratic primary, John Liu, seem pretty identical.

The two stand on the same side for most issues affecting the constituents in College Point, Whitestone, Bayside, Flushing and the Cunningham Park area. Both have decades of experience working and living in the communities they are hoping to represent.

Avella and Liu both hope to decrease airplane and helicopter noise in their districts. They both hold Democratic ideals that support a minimum wage increase and the Women’s Equality Act. Each hopes to maintain or improve the quality of life in their represented communities through various avenues, such as road repairs and added bus service.

Both candidates have experience in elected office, with years of City Council experience under their collective belts, Avella’s experience as a state senator for the last four years and Liu’s experience as the city comptroller.

However, there is one major crossroad where the two differ. If you prefer a Democratic leader with strong party lines, vote for John Liu. He strongly believes that the Democrats will clearly have control in 2016, and if this is true, he already has the support of seemingly all of the Democratic senators in Queens, and many from other boroughs.

This is where Avella comes in, and a decision he made in his political career that others with skin in the game have loudly disapproved we see as one of his strongest selling points.

Earlier this year, Avella defected from the traditional Democratic Conference to join the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC). While many Democrats saw this as a move to support the Republicans, Avella explained to this paper's editorial board that his decision was based on a desire to be more effective in office.

Tired of not being able to pass legislation in a Democratic minority, Avella moved to the IDC, a group of five Senators who made up their own little Senate team. The positive impact cannot be argued. Avella brought $6.5 million to his district this year to fund things like schools, parks and senior centers.

And while last year Avella got four bills to the floor of the assembly, two of which passed, this year he had 17 bills pass the senate, eight through the assembly and three of those have already been signed into law by the governor.

What accounts for the difference, Avella explained, is that being a member of the IDC allows for him to have an open conversation with both parties.

The IDC is able to block legislation from either side, because neither party has a large enough majority to pass a bill without the five members of the IDC’s support. Thus, both parties need votes from the IDC to get things done, which puts members of the group in a position of unique power.

Critics have said this makes Avella an ally to the Republicans, but Avella’s standing on the issues has not changed one bit. He said that he still works to block legislation from Republicans that go against Democratic values, including “a lot of anti-environmental stuff” this year.

Without a majority, any legislator needs help from the “other” party to get things done. Avella, who has made a career on being an independent political voice, knew this. He is playing part in a trend that could be helpful in politics across the country, reaching a hand out to the opposing party and opening the door for productive conversation.

One of the biggest complaints regarding the government in Washington DC is that the House and the Senate are constantly in a stalemate, with Democrats and Republicans unable to agree on anything. When someone tries to break this stalemate, we should commend them, not condemn them.

On a state level, Avella and the rest of the IDC have taken steps to mend the broken system and act as a go-between for the two parties. It would behoove the rest of our political leaders to follow suit.

We believe that Avella has earned the right to continue the work he has started in Albany, and give him our endorsement in the September 9th Democratic Primary for the State Senate's 11th District.

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