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State Senate Republicans confident Monserrate in fold

ALBANY - State Senate Republicans insisted Saturday their governing coalition with two Democrats was intact despite signs that Hiram Monserrate (D- Jackson Heights) would bolt if his party chose a new Senate leader.

"The leadership vote we fully expect to stand was taken on Monday," said John McArdle, aide to GOP chief Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre.

McArdle was referring to last week's coup, which installed Skelos as majority leader and Pedro Espada Jr. (D-Bronx) as temporary Senate president. Monserrate and Espada provided the votes for Republicans to regain control of the chamber.

Since then Monserrate has wavered. He heaped praise Friday on John Sampson (D-Brooklyn), the front-runner to replace Malcolm Smith (D- St. Albans) as Democratic leader. Monserrate described Sampson as "fantastic" to NY1 television. He added, "I took my vote Monday. I think we probably might be taking another vote very soon."

He couldn't be reached Saturday but a confidant denied Monserrate plans to rejoin Senate Democrats. "He would like to see Smith replaced but there are more things than just that," the confidant said.

Smith remains Democratic leader, with a two-year term, and cannot be removed without scuttling the party's legal challenge of the coup. The case resumes Monday in State Supreme Court here.

Still, sources briefed on Friday's meeting of senators said Smith likely would be replaced. They said support was "strong" for Sampson, head of the Judiciary Committee.

Asked about Smith's status, his spokesman Austin Shafran said, "the Senate Democratic conference is united."

Related topic galleries: Jackson Heights, Democratic Party, Parliament, Malcolm Smith, Government, Coup d'Etat, Republican Party

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