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Democratic Leaders Face Challenges to Unite Party

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Albany/HV: Democratic Leaders Face Challenges to Unite Party
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STATEWIDE -- New York Democrats put on a show of unity this week at the state convention. However, the party is split in the Senate as five Democratic lawmakers are in a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans.

It's an arrangement Democratic officials want to see changed.

"I think that a lot of issues that we stand for in the Senate that have been stymied would have a better shot," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Silver points to a host of sought after legislation for liberals in Albany ranging from a statewide public financing system to the Dream Act. Governor Andrew Cuomo backs these measures too, but has faced criticism for not getting them through the coalition-led Senate.

"He's battled for campaign finance reform. He's battled for the Dream Act. This is why we need a change in the Senate to achieve some of those things," said Silver.

This election season, Cuomo is also making a renewed push for the women's agenda, including a provision to strengthen abortion laws in the state.

Senate Democrats in the mainline conference have strongly supported the bill.

"I mean the reality is they would have to be campaign themes if they don't get passed. And my conference has been very clear where we stand on campaign finance, where we stand on the entire women's equality package," said Senate Minority Leader Andrew Stewart-Cousins.

Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein points out, however, that measures like gun control and a minimum wage hike came under the coalition's leadership.

"When the dust settles on that election, it's up to me to govern. I think the Independent Democratic Conference has been very effective at achieving core Democratic legislation," said Klein.

Former Governor David Paterson, the new Democratic state party chairman, is skeptical a clean majority can be even achieved this year.

"I would be satisfied if we could take a couple of seats away from Republicans, and maybe unify the Democrats that are there. That would be a major victory," said Paterson.

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