ALBANY -- Call them the Four un-Amigos.
Four new members of the Senate Democratic conference, including Sen. Tim Kennedy, a South Buffalo Democrat, were offered up to the Capitol press corps Thursday.
Their theme? They are all about bringing change to Albany, but aren’t joining the four Senate Democrats who a day earlier announced they had lost faith with their leadership and were forming their own new independent caucus. (The breakaway lawmakers Wednesday dismissed any comparisons to the “Four Amigo” Senate Democrat group that created considerable turmoil for the partisan conference in 2009.)
The new lawmakers on Thursday sought to portray their own independent streaks, though they insisted they are comfortable pushing their own change-agendas from within inside the conference of Democratic senators.
Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a Bronx Democrat who last fall defeated former Sen. Pedro Espada, the fiery and controversial figure recently indicted on corruption charges, said the Democrats had been "ill prepared to be in the majority." The Democrats lost their two-year-old control of the chamber to the Republicans, who now lead the Senate by a 32-30 margin.
"This is a different conference," Rivera said of the new blood and promises by Senate Democratic leaders to run things differently –- at least what they can run from their new minority position.
Kennedy, who replaces longtime Sen. William Stachowski, said his focus will be on job creation, property tax relief and efforts by the University at Buffalo to get more financial autonomy from the SUNY system as part of its ambitious downtown Buffalo expansion plans.
"Western New York lost its voice in Albany,'' Kennedy said. "I'm here to get it back."
Joining Kennedy and Rivera were Queens senators Michael Gianaris and Tony Avella. They talked of being on board with the agenda laid out in the State of the State by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, though Rivera said he is withholding final opinions until he sees what plans Cuomo has in mind for school and health care cuts in the upcoming state budget deliberations.
-- Tom Precious