Albany Dems have given up too much to be in with far left ‘cool kids’


Democrats in Albany, at least some of them, seem to be on a self-destructive mission to cannibalize our party and make our candidates lose more in every successive election. 

The latest example? The state Senate’s orchestrated public humiliation of Justice Hector LaSalle, a lifelong Democrat with a stellar professional reputation. The Senate’s Judiciary Committee voted 10-9 Wednesday to kill LaSalle’s nomination to become the state’s top judge — all 10 nays coming from fellow Democrats. 

The show gave lawmakers the added benefit of embarrassing Kathy Hochul (the Democratic governor who just approved their big pay raise), since LaSalle was her nomination. The Senate flexed its muscles to show the world who’s boss — and intentionally undermined New York’s first female governor as she embarks on her first full term.

Some blame Hochul, saying she didn’t shore up early support or twist the appropriate arms. Maybe. But I’m not blaming the victims here. I put this squarely on the Senate leadership, which seems desperate for approval from the cool kids on the far left — even at the expense of some of their own Democratic colleagues.  

New York State Senate Judiciary Committee
All 10 of the votes blocking LaSalle came from fellow Democrats.

Remember, Republicans in the 2022 midterms flipped four New York congressional seats and several Long Island state legislative districts, and gained ground in every single one of the state’s 62 counties — in large part because leftist policies like New York’s bail-reform laws turned off moderate Democratic voters, as well as newer Asian and Hispanic voters.

I have no doubt LaSalle, a Long Islander and Brentwood HS graduate with a reputation as a consensus builder, is well-qualified. He now serves with distinction as presiding justice of New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, Second Department, leading the country’s busiest and largest appellate-court system. You don’t get that kind of job by accident. And LaSalle, whose parents are from Puerto Rico, was set to make history as the first person of color to lead the state’s highest court, overseeing its judiciary branch. 

Hochul’s choice of LaSalle wasn’t some out-of-the-blue curveball to provoke the left. The selection process was, as usual and by law, led by the state Commission on Judicial Nomination, which sent seven candidates, including LaSalle, to the governor. Hochul made her choice. 

The backlash from activists was sudden and swift. LaSalle had served a couple stints as a prosecutor in the Suffolk district attorney’s office. For the far left, that’s a disqualifying offense right out of the gate.

Next, a few of his procedural decisions were plucked from his long career, and then mischaracterized to falsely paint him as anti-choice and anti-union. And that’s just not true.

The Senate leadership clearly made its decision well before Wednesday’s vote.

Gov. Kathy Hochul
Hochul has pushed LaSalle as a strong, centrist pick.
Getty Images for Concordia Summit

“I do not see this ending in the way that the governor wished it would,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said on a podcast more than a week before the vote.

Perhaps to make sure the votes lined up to please the left, Stewart-Cousins stacked the committee with three extra Democratic senators (and just one Republican) — with the three extra Dem “nay” votes ensuring the LaSalle nomination went south.

Now leftist pols are telling Hochul what they tell other Dems when they don’t march in lockstep: They’re calling her a closet Republican. “Dem supermajority in the state senate doesn’t need to tolerate @GovKathyHochul acting like a Republican,” tweeted Sen. Jabari Brisport. 

It’s important to note that, even in hyper-political Albany, this is the first time a governor’s pick for top judge was defeated. These nominations had been approved in the past even when the Senate and the Executive Chamber were run by different parties.

So what does Hochul do next? She said she’s weighing a legal move to make the entire Senate vote on the nomination. That’s good. She’s got to flex her own muscles and flex them soon, or it will be a long and demoralizing four years — for her, the Democratic Party and the state.

Former Nassau County Executive Laura Curran (D) hosts the “Cut to the Chase with Laura Curran” podcast.


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