More Challengers Mull Bids Against John Sampson

John Sampson (Photo: Facebook)

John Sampson (Photo: Facebook)

Two candidates have already declared their intentions to challenge embattled State Senator John Sampson, and two more may be joining the fray. 

Samuel Pierre, a nonprofit head, and Dell Smitherman, a political director with the healthcare workers’ union 1199 SEIU, are both mulling bids against the twice-indicted Brooklyn lawmaker, sources said. 

“Yes, I’m interested, but I haven’t made a formal announcement,” Mr. Pierre, a founder of the Haitian American Caucus and the former Brooklyn borough director in the Bloomberg administration’s community affairs unit, told Politicker. “I’m considering a run against John because I actually worked for him. I worked in the district. I know what the needs are.”

Mr. Smitherman, a political director with 1199, the powerful healthcare workers’ union, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but sources said he hopes to use his labor connections to become a significant factor in the race.

Mr. Sampson, who served as senate majority leader when the Democrats briefly controlled the chamber, has been indicted twice in connection with an alleged embezzlement scheme. He was indicted last year for the alleged scheme and then again in February for allegedly lying to FBI agents. Booted from the Democratic conference, Mr. Sampson’s clout in Albany is significantly diminished. 

Two former City Council candidates, Sean Henry and Leon Miles, are already gearing up for a race in the eastern Brooklyn district. But Mr. Pierre, a former Sampson staffer and member of the Thomas Jefferson Club–the borough’s most influential local Democratic organization–could bring establishment credentials to the race if he makes his bid official.

“I have a relationship with the guy [Mr. Sampson]. I’m not gonna be one of the candidates that brings up his legal issues,” Mr. Pierre said. “As much as I want to be the number one candidate [to run against Mr. Sampson], I’m more about the party than myself. We need to be united.”

Mr. Pierre said he is meeting today with Mr. Smitherman to discuss the race.

Senate Democrats and the Brooklyn Democratic Party have yet to make concrete efforts to recruit candidates or build a unified front against Mr. Sampson, sources said, though the Brooklyn machine is unlikely to carry Mr. Sampson’s petitions. 

It’s also not certain that Mr. Sampson will seek re-election. Legal bills have decimated his campaign coffers and, as of January, he had no money to fund a bid. Mr. Sampson has not indicated publicly what his future plans will be.

His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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