New York Gov. David Paterson is calling on state senators to resolve their power struggle and has pledged to work with the winner -- as Democrats seek a court order to thwart the leadership shift.
"I am urging all of the leaders of the Senate to get back to the chamber," Paterson said at a press conference in Albany. "They can go back into the Senate chamber and elect a majority leader and I will work with whoever it is."
The leader of the insurgent coalition challenging the New York Senate's Democratic majority said the group now has the keys to the chamber, which has been locked for two days by Democrats.
Sen. Pedro Espada, the Democratic head of the new power-sharing alliance, won't say how he got the keys Democrats had refused to provide.
Meantime, Malcolm Smith, the Democratic Senate Leader ousted in the coup, is seeking a temporary court order to stop the power shift. Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Smith, says the Democrats won't enter the Senate chamber while it's governed by what they call unlawful rules.
Gov. Paterson lamented today that the political power struggle has diverted the Legislature away from debating key issues like property taxes, health care and same-sex marriage. He called Monday's maneuvering an insult to government.
Even disgraced ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer weighed-in with a column on Slate.com.
"Yes, the Senate takeover is being orchestrated by a rogue's gallery of politicians and their associates, grabbing for power in a base, self-interested way. But if you look at the upheaval from a different angle, it begins to make sense and to seem like a step forward in New York politics," he wrote.
“All of us in Albany are tarnished by this,” Paterson said.
Billionaire Tom Golisano has emerged as the master of puppets behind Monday's coup, inspired, allegedly, by Smith's irritating Blackberry addiction and plans to tax the rich.
In April, Golisano went to meet with Smith to express his displeasure with his plans to squeeze the rich to address the current budget shortfall, but Smith was unable to tear his eyes away from his BlackBerry.
"When I travel 250 miles to make a case on how to save the state a lot of money ... and the guy comes into his office and starts playing with his BlackBerry, I was miffed," Golisano told the New York Daily News.
Convinced that Democrats were disinterested in pursuing alternatives to the financial crisis, Golisano, who's dating tennis star Monica Seles, turned to top political advisor Steve Pigeon, who arranged a series of top-secret meetings at the Albany rock club Red Square.
“You wouldn’t find anybody there that we knew,” Senator George D. Maziarz told The New York Times.
Pigeon in turn reached out to old friend State Sen. Espada, who had a history of caucusing with Republicans. Soon enough, Espada and his friend Hiram Monserrate had agreed to changed allegiances, flipping a 32-30 majority across the aisle to Republicans.
Even if Democrats do manage to wrest control back, Smith’s days as Senate leader are as good as done, doomed by his failure to maintain control of his allies and keep an eye on his enemies, analysts said.