Oliver Koppell has served as State Attorney General and been a City Councilman but his toughest job likely lies ahead of him: taking on State Sen. Jeff Klein in a Democratic primary this September.
Klein is the head of the five-member Independent Democratic Conference – the tail that helps wag the dog of the State Senate along with 29 Republicans. Should all of the enrolled Democrats ever stick together in one voting bloc in the Senate, they'd have 32 votes. But this is the Democratic party we're talking about. It's the same political organization that self-destructed and got into an insane food fight in 2001 to help deliver the mayoralty to Michael Bloomberg. While there have been rumblings of Klein possibly making peace with his Democratic colleagues, any talk of détente went out the window yesterday with Koppell's entry into the race.
Talking tough in an interview with our Zack Fink, Koppell called Klein "a traitor to the Democratic Party and, more importantly, he's a traitor to the very progressive principles that he pretends to espouse."
Koppell and his supporters point to the Dream Act – a bill that would help illegal immigrants get college financial aid – and raising the state's minimum wage as two agenda items that would get passed in a Democratic State Senate – as well as the Women's Equality Act.
Klein and his team note that the state's minimum wage was raised – something that wouldn't have happened at all without his IDC. The question is whether Democrats would prefer a hot cup of coffee – or a lukewarm one delivered by Klein. But the Bronx lawmaker is arguing that there'd be no java at all if it wasn't for him.
Gov. Cuomo has seemed to enjoy the divided Senate, allowing him to wheel and deal with its different factions and not have to worry about dealing with a rival base of Democratic power as he does with the State Assembly. But there is talk that the governor wants some "progressive" legislation passed by the Senate before next month's recess. Should Klein and his IDC -- along with their GOP partners -- fail to deliver, it will be interesting to see if the slumbering dragon on the Capitol's second floor gets fired up.
Meanwhile, it should be a busy summer in Klein's district which covers a large portion of the more affluent sections of The Bronx as well as a small patch of Westchester. Koppell will be on "Inside City Hall" tonight to talk about his primary battle. You better duck if you're walking through the Senate cafeteria.