Smitherman Scores 1199 Endorsement in Race Against Sampson

Dell Smitherman. (Photo: Smitherman Campaign)

Dell Smitherman. (Photo: Smitherman Campaign)

Dell Smitherman, the former political coordinator for 1199 SEIU, has netted the support of his old union in his race against State Senator John Sampson.

Mr. Smitherman, already running with the backing of the Working Families Party, has emerged as a top contender to unseat the twice-indicted Mr. Sampson.

“I’ve worked closely with Dell for years, so I’m proud to stand with him today as he fights to do even more for the people he’s served his entire career,” said Kevin Finnegan, 1199’s political director, in a statement to the Observer.

“Since his first day organizing healthcare workers at a nursing home to his long history of leadership within our union, Dell’s whole life has been spent in service to his neighbors and the issues they care about—whether it’s a strong living wage, paid sick days for all working families, or better schools across our city,” Mr. Finnegan added.

The endorsement of the influential 1199, the city’s largest union, was not surprising to most political observers. But it’s yet more labor support for Mr. Smitherman, who is working to oust Mr. Sampson from the eastern Brooklyn seat he has held for almost two decades.

Mr. Sampson, an attorney, was indicted on corruption charges last year and this year and plead not guilty to both. The former Democratic majority leader’s clout in Albany is significantly diminished and his campaign is drowning in debt as he pays mounting legal fees.

In addition to Mr. Smitherman, former City Council candidates Sean Henry and Leon Miles are running against Mr. Sampson. The Brooklyn Democratic Party is remaining loyal to Mr. Sampson and could aid him despite his charges, sources say.

Mr. Sampson’s camp was nonplussed by the endorsement news.

“I don’t think it matters,” a spokesman for Mr. Sampson said.