By Tom Precious
ALBANY – Secrets in Albany are not always easy to keep.
So on the night in early January 2011 when four Democratic state senators decided to break away from their party conference to form their own independent caucus, they picked as their away-from-the-office meeting spot a third floor walkup apartment rented by Sen. Diane Savino a few blocks from the Capitol.
Savino’s refrigerator wasn’t working, Sen. Jeff Klein recalled on Monday, so it meant warm sodas to go along with the pizza – one cheese, one pepperoni – they ordered.
But Savino’s downstairs neighbor kept stopping by during the secret meeting at which the four senators were plotting the final moves to form their splinter group. That neighbor, Assemblyman Matthew Titone, who like Savino is from Staten Island, wanted to talk about a borough issue with here before the 2011 session got underway a couple days later. They had to keep turning him away.
“He kept coming to the door,’’ Klein said laughing about the incident that they had fought hard to keep secret – a mission they accomplished until publicly unveiling their breakaway move.
You can read a quick profile about the group – the Independent Democratic Conference -- here in today’s Buffalo News, including Klein’s insistence – one he made three times yesterday during what was his first media interview since last week’s elections -- that his breakaway group is a permanent fixture on the Albany landscape. [Still, he would not say if his group will lean to help the GOP maintain the Senate or rejoin the main Democratic conference to help that group grab back control.]
He was asked about the chief talking point by Senate Democrats since Election Day: that the four breakaway senators are all Democrats representing heavy Democratic districts and that, in the end, they will see no choice but to help fellow Democrats keep the GOP from retaining power. His response: “No comment.’’
Put all the comments together and they all amount to one thing: worries for the central Democratic conference.
Democrats were already quickly responding to today's story. A chief complaint: Klein was the head of the Senate Democratic campaign committee when the party lost control back to the Republicans in the 2010 elections.