Source: Stewart-Cousins Ousts Sampson As Senate Dem Leader
After winning enough seats to wrest the majority from the GOP hands, only to see it slip from his grasp thanks to six disaffected Democrats, Senate Minority Leader John Sampson now has another loss to contend with.
At a meeting in New York City this afternoon, Sampson was ousted from the leadership post he has held since the height of the 2009 coup, and replaced by Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, according to a source familiar with the vote.
Stewart-Cousins will be the first women to head a legislative conference in New York State history.
The vote “wasn’t even close,” the source said. Nineteen Democrats backed Stewart-Cousins, while six stuck with Sampson. (One senator, Kevin Parker, was not present – either on the phone or in person).
This is a significant blow for Sampson, but it’s not entirely unexpected. His grip on the leadership was widely viewed as tenuous even before the Nov. 6 elections.
Sampson himself admitted as much during a post-Election Day interview with NY1′s Errol Louis, which took place after Senator-elect Simcha Felder (also of Brooklyn) had announced he would caucus with the Republicans, but before the IDC announced it had acquired a fifth member (Sen. Malcolm Smith) and forged a power-sharing deal with the Republicans to enable them to retain the majority.
During that interview, Sampson insisted that he was still the leader, but would not be taking any of his members’ votes for granted. He said he believed the IDC, led by Sen. Jeff Klein, might yet decide to return to the Democratic fold to enable the conference to assume its rightful place – as “mandated” by the voters – in the majority.
Various members of the Democratic conference had expressed interest in ousting Sampson as far back as May, including Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who told the Daily News she would be “lying” if she said she didn’t have designs on the job.
Stewart-Cousins was floated as a possible “compromise” candidate who might be able to bridge the gap between white senators and the black and Latino senators who didn’t want to let get of the leadership post they had held since 2003 when former Gov. David Paterson ousted Minority Leader Marty Connor.
Stewart-Cousins’s main champions, according to several sources, were DSCC Chairman Mike Gianaris; Sen. Liz Krueger, of Manhattan; and Sen. Gustavo Rivera, of the Bronx. Rivera has a close relationship with Stewart-Cousins after serving as her campaign manager in 2006.
Stewart-Cousins is a former Westchester County legislator whose first run for the Senate back in 2004 resulted in one of the closest and longest-running battles in state history. She ended up losing to her Republican opponent, then-Sen. Nick Spano, by just 18 votes.
Two years later, Stewart-Cousins mounted a second challenge to Spano – this time aided by Bill and Hillary Clinton (Westchester County residents) and popular gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer, who made no secret of his desire to flip the Senate into Democratic hands. This time, she was successful, defeating Spano by some 1,800 votes.
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