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New York State Senate

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference with Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Sen. Jeff Klein in New York April 2. 

Associated Press

A seven-year power sharing agreement in the state Senate came to an abrupt halt last week when the Independent Democratic Caucus disbanded under mounting pressure to unify the party ahead of a critical election season. The problem is that when party politics come first, constituents come second.

The IDC was formed in 2011 by a group of senators that decided it didn't want to follow the whims of party leaders. They were rewarded with larger offices and high-paying committee chairmanships for agreeing to cooperate with Republicans.

But the eight current members agreed last week to do an about-face and promised to support the Democrats. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had been pressuring the group to fall in line, reportedly said that the move was necessary "for the good of the party."

And, it turns out, it may also be good for the governor, who is fighting to shore up support in the face of a September primary challenge. Members of the breakaway caucus are facing primaries, as well, and Democrats have a fighting chance of taking control of the Senate in November.

Payback for the turncoats was swift, as Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan took the committee chairmanships away from members of the group. But Democrats have gifts to give, as well. Former IDC leader Sen. Jeff Klein, for example, was immediately made deputy leader of the Senate after agreeing to shut down the independent conference.

It reminds us of the shenanigans we witnessed in the Senate in 2009. Unable to accept the results of the 2008 elections that gave Democrats control of that house for the first time in decades, the Republican minority coaxed two Democrats to join them in trying to replace the Senate majority leader with a Republican. The power struggle led to 31-31 tie, which resulted in the work of the Senate grinding to a halt for a month.

We hope that doesn't happen again — but it might, because Democrats have a shot at gaining Senate seats as soon as April 24, depending upon the results of special elections that will fill vacant seats.

Another fight for power must not be allowed to consume the Capitol. Regardless of who elected officials decide to align themselves with politically, their first obligation must be their constituents back home.

The Democrats involved must not lose sight of the reasons they formed their own coalition to begin with. And nobody should forget the reason they were sent to Albany in the first place. The work of the people is supposed to supersede the wants of party leadership.

The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Rob Forcey, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.

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