Sampson Says He’ll Step Down If Dems Unite In Senate (Updated)
Senate Minority Leader John Sampson said this morning at a rally of political leaders in New York City he would step down as leader of the Democratic conference if the party can unite in the majority.
Sampson, D-Brooklyn, made his comments at a rally organized in part by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, is making a bid to bring the five-member Independent Democratic Conference back to the fold while removing himself publicly as an excuse or impediment to not reach a deal.
“This is bigger than me,” he said. “This bigger than my colleagues, because it is the people’s agenda. And brothers and sisters, I understand that. I will not be an impediment for us to get the majority. So I’m telling you, I’m going to work hard from now until the time we go into session to get us back the majority. And when we get back the majority… when we get back the majority, I will step down and not be a majority leader, understanding this is bigger than me.”
Eric Soufer, a spokesman for the IDC, wouldn’t comment this morning on Sampson’s statement.
Update: Klein released a statement late Saturday afternoon.
“I am committed to governing with all of those who are serious about advancing a legislative agenda that helps and serves all New Yorkers,” he said.
The IDC announced this week it would form a governing coalition with Senate Republicans that would allow both sides to share power in the chamber.
The Senate coalition faced criticism from minority groups that the agreement essentially concentrate power in the chamber in white lawmakers, shutting out the last vestige of black political leadership in state government (the IDC added a fifth member this week, Sen. Malcolm Smith, the former majority leader of the Senate and the first black leader of the chamber).
But the feelings from black lawmakers are raw.
Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, a black lawmaker from Mount Vernon who said she’s interested in becoming Democratic leader of the Senate, said at the rally today that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desire for a “New Democratic Party” is one led by whites.
Cuomo has said he’ll take a “wait and see” approach on the new coalition, but has said both Republicans and Democrats share blame for mismanaging the chamber (he also appointed Assemblyman Keith Wright, who is black, co-chairman of the state Democratic Party).
Sharpton, at the rally, says he plans to hold demonstrations in the Senate districts of Smith, along with Sens. Diane Savino of Staten Island and Jeff Klein of the Bronx.
Klein, the IDC leader, has never given the indication that Sampson’s continued leadership in the Senate would keep them from returning to the fold.
Klein did speak with Sampson recently to “clear the air,” though Democratic Sen. Mike Gianaris said that meeting was followed a series of missed phone calls.
The IDC has been clear, however, that it wants a rules change in order to be a permanent third conference in the Senate.
Smith, along with Klein, were leaders under the old Senate Democratic majority from 2009 through 2011, the period the IDC cites as a time of dysfunction in which nothing got done.
The indication from the IDC has been that the chaos in the chamber hasn’t been blamed on one person, though, but an institutional dysfunction within the conference itself.
When it comes to policy, Klein has said he wants to accomplish a host of progressive goals, such as increasing the state’s minimum wage, stop and frisk reform and overhauling campaign-finance laws.
But the concern from mainline Democrats is that a GOP coalition could water down those measures.
While two races in the 46th and 41st Senate districts remain undecided, Democrats will have a numerical majority in the chamber come January.
If both Democrats Cecilia Tkaczyk and Terry Gipson win their races, they would have 32 members, not counting Brooklyn Democratc Simcha Felder, who plans to conference with the GOP.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Nick Reisman on December 8, 2012 at 11:24 am, and is filed under State Senate. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|