- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 9, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - The leader of a faction of breakaway Democrats in New York’s state Senate rebuffed a primary challenger Tuesday night in a matchup that could prove pivotal in determining control of the chamber.

Sen. Jeff Klein defeated Oliver Koppell in the primary for the 34th Senate District, which includes parts of the Bronx and Westchester County.

Klein leads the five-member Independent Democratic Conference, which broke with traditional Democrats to join with Republicans in taking control of the Senate.

During the campaign, Klein cited his support for full-day kindergarten, gun control and a higher minimum wage. He has defended his faction’s power-sharing agreement with Republicans, saying it cut through government dysfunction. In June, Klein vowed to return to the Democratic fold under pressure from mainline Democrats and the threat of a primary challenge.

Koppell had argued that Klein couldn’t be trusted to keep his word, and that his partnership with Republicans had effectively killed several Democratic initiatives, including further increases to the minimum wage.

Klein’s victory likely means that traditional Democrats will have to work with Klein and his independent conference if they hope to form a majority to wrest control of the Senate from Republicans.

Senate Democrats haven’t yet said whether Klein would serve as a co-leader of the Democratic caucus should the party retake the state Senate. The chamber’s mainline Democrats are now led by Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers.

Republican Aleksander Mici and two third-party opponents are on the November general election ballot.

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