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State Senate GOP Seizes Control In Political Coup

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With the help of two rogue Democrats, a group of state Republicans on Monday seized control of the New York State Senate in what many are calling a political coup.

With less than two weeks remaining in the current legislative session, leadership in Albany is now in political limbo.

Earlier in the day, Republicans in the State Senate, led by Binghamton Senator Thomas Libous, seized power from Majority leader Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, by forcing a resolution to vote in a new leader.

The bi-partisan coalition was made possible with the help of Democrats Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens.

As a result of the vote, Republican Dean Skelos of Long Island assumed the role of Senate Majority Leader, while Espada assumed the role of Senate President Pro Tempore.

The two will now share the duties associated with the leadership positions.

In a released statement, Monserrate said, "I am a lifelong Democrat and remain a loyal Democrat. After today’s proceedings, I am proud to form a bi-partisan coalition that has elected the first Latino President pro Tem of the New York State Senate, my colleague, the Honorable Pedro Espada Jr. We look forward to conferencing with fellow Democrats to ensure that real reforms become a reality in the State of New York."

Following the news, the Democrats walked out of the Senate Chamber, cutting off the power to the chamber lights and live television feed.

In a statement, a spokesman for Senator Malcolm Smith said, "This was an illegal and unlawful attempt to gain control of the Senate and reverse the will of the people who voted for a Democratic Majority. Nothing has changed, Senator Malcolm A. Smith remains the duly elected Temporary President and Majority Leader. The real Senate Majority is anxious to get back to governing, and will take immediate steps to get us back to work."

During a press conference at the State Capitol Monday evening, Smith reiterated that the vote was performed illegally, since it took place after they had gaveled out of session.

Smith also made no indication of when he plans to call the senate back into the chamber, where a repeat vote could possibly take place.

Governor David Paterson expressed strong disapproval of the day's proceedings and said state lawmakers should be focusing on the issues of the people instead.

"What happened to the integrity that we all believed we are advocating when we take our oath of office? Now every week just because the senate is close between the two major parties and someone doesn't like what's going on we change leadership, or are we really changing leadership, aren't we changing power. This is despicable what happened here today," said Paterson.

The governor also said he believes legal actions will likely be used to resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, the man behind the scenes of the deal -- longtime political player and failed gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano -- is calling the move a historic victory for New York State residents.

Skelos also praised the move, saying it will renew a sense of government transparency in Albany.

"Quite frankly I think you're going to see more and more of this throughout the country. As people make a determination that everything shouldn't be as partisan as it has been in the past. And the only way you're going to get good government is through open government and coalition type government," said Skelos.

The newly formed bi-partisan coalition is also being met with criticism. Both Monserrate and Espada Jr. are currently involved with legal and ethics investigations that could pose a political challenge.

Most recently, State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo launched an investigation over whether Espada has used the non-profit health care company he runs for political purposes.

As for Monserrate, he was led away in handcuffs last year after being arrested on charges he assaulted his girlfriend.

Both men have said they are innocent.

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