There could be a big political battle in the Bronx this September, as former State Attorney General Oliver Koppell is considering a primary challenge against state Senate co-leader Jeff Klein. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
First elected to office in 1970 to represent the Riverdale section of the Bronx, Oliver Koppell is thinking about getting back into the game and taking on state Senator Jeff Klein.
"Look, we're looking very seriously at it. We have to make a decision within literally days of now," Koppell said. "And it's not something that I've just talked about. We've talked to a lot of people. We have to see that there's support there."
After breaking away from state Senate Democrats, Klein formed the five-member Independent Democratic Conference, which now controls the Senate majority in a power-sharing arrangement with Republicans.
Koppell said the alliance has prevented progressive legislation from passing in the state Senate, including the DREAM Act, which provides tuition assistance to illegal immigrants, and comprehensive campaign finance reform.
"The Republicans generally don't want to do very much. The Democrats are the activists," Koppell said. "So if you give a veto power to Dean Skelos, you're preventing things from happening."
Koppell, who was term limited out of the City Council this year, lacks financial resources and organizational support, but he does have name recognition in Riverdale. While Riverdale is not a geographically large part of Klein's Bronx district, some estimate that 40 to 45 percent of the vote could come from the neighborhood in a low-turnout Democratic primary.
"We do have a lot of the votes here in Riverdale," said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz of the Bronx. "Oliver's represented Riverdale. Senator Klein represents Riverdale, so they would be fighting for that vote, but Senator Klein is very popular here."
Klein has been active and visible in Riverdale. Last month, he stuck a provision in the state budget requiring community review of a controversial hospital project.
"People in our community look at what you've done in the neighborhood," Dinowitz said.
If Koppell decides to run, it would easily make this one of the most watched races of the election cycle during a year in which not only the governor is up for re-election, but so is every member of the legislature.
Koppell said he will make a final decision by next week.