Sen. Smith explains decision to join IDC

State Sen. Malcolm Smith presents Donna Hood with a pen commemorating the signing of the Senate's firearms reform act. Smith dedicated part of the bill to Hood, whose 13-year-old son was killed by a stray bullet in 2009. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) told a standing-room-only crowd last week that he joined the Senate’s new coalition government in order to get results for his community and he said the move has already paid off.

In early December, five weeks after Superstorm Sandy hit and a month after Democrats appeared to have taken control of the Senate in the November elections, Smith announced he would join the four rogue lawmakers of the Independent Democratic Conference in a power-sharing agreement with Republicans.

Even with two undecided races that would eventually go to the Democrats, the breakaway of the four original members of the IDC was enough to deny the Dems an outright voting majority before Smith decided to join the coalition.

“The fact of the matter is the coalition was formed already. The train was out of the station. Gone,” he told a crowd of about 200 at the Alpha Phi Alpha senior center in Cambria Heights. “The decision was, do I not be a part of a coalition that would allow me to have influence and input over the important things that affect the district that has elected me to represent them or do I sit on the sidelines?”

The town hall-style meeting was billed as a chance for the senator to explain the “new” Albany.

Smith read off a list of assignments he said were a direct result of his move, including co-chairman of the Senate Task Force on Sandy Recovery, vice chairman of the Finance Committee and chairman of the Social Services Committee. He also co-authored the state’s firearms reform act and said he would be at the table when many important decisions affecting the community are made.

“Your senator is at that table because of a calculated decision,” he said.

Smith took the media to task for what he said were stories that characterized him as a Republican. Earlier this year he explored running for mayor as a Republican, but when asked about it the senator sidestepped the question, saying he was focused on his district.

“I am still a Democrat, born and raised,” he said, adding that even among the Democrats there are divisions on issues of women’s’ rights and minimum wage. “Without this coalition, do you realize we can’t pass minimum wage?”

The crowd seemed to be in favor of Smith’s decision, applauding him several times. He did have at least one vocal detractor, though.

Bishop Charles Norris had been hounding Smith ever since he decided to caucus with the IDC, calling on him at public meetings to explain himself.

“Sen. Smith, in my estimation you have been a bad senator. That’s not ‘bad’ street language for good,” he said before being cut off.

Cambria Heights resident Vidicar Reichley said she thought Smith’s decision made sense.

“It makes it sound like he’s being involved,” she said after the meeting. “What he should do is have more of these meetings.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Posted 8:48 pm, February 7, 2013
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