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Queens State Senator Defects to Independent Democratic Conference

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Democrats in the state Senate have lost another member of their conference, as state Senator Tony Avella of Queens is joining the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, which controls the Senate in a coalition with Republicans. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

Tony Avella has a new place to sit in the state Senate chamber, no longer with his old colleagues in the mainline Democratic Conference, but as one of five members of the Independent Democratic Conference, known as the IDC.

"In the very beginning, I was a little skeptical as to whether this bipartisan coalition that the IDC had with the Republican conference, but it has worked," Avella said. "It has proved proven results for democratic values."

The defection of Avella leaves the mainline Democrats with just 24 members, making their chances of winning a majority this November that much more difficult.

Republicans have 29 members, but with the IDC, the coalition has 34 votes.

"I heard about it today. I don't know what it means, if anything," Cuomo said. "I think we're headed into the political silly season, and you're going to see this battle continue int the election season."

Democrats were caught off guard by Avella's announcement.

"Oh, yes, I think we were all very, very surprised, and of course, I wish him well," said Andrea Stewart-Cousins, leader of the state Senate's Democratic Conference. "As far as we're concerned, we continue to really push the whole progressive agenda that we pushed from the very, very beginning."

Klein split from the Democrats in 2011 to form his own conference. Sources say that Democrats have discussed trying to woo him back, but that has only led to infighting.

The addition of Avella was viewed by many as a victory for Klein.

"It's a great day, and I know Tony Avella for probably over 25 years. We worked together as young staffers years ago," Klein said. "He's dedicated. He cares about public service."

Star Senator Ruben Diaz is one of many Democrats who are frustrated about being in the minority. He is trying to join the IDC.

"I don't think they want me," Diaz said.

Turns out, he is correct.

Avella says that he plans to run for re-election, but Democrats are already talking about a primary challenge against him. As of this month, Avella had less than $3,000 in his campaign account, but the IDC will likely help finance his race.

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