‘We Have No State Representation': Smitherman Launches Bid Against Sampson

Dell Smitherman kicking off his campaign. (Photo: Smitherman Campaign)

Dell Smitherman kicking off his campaign. (Photo: Smitherman Campaign)

Dell Smitherman, a former political coordinator for 1199 SEIU, launched his campaign against State Senator John Sampson yesterday, telling supporters the Brooklyn district has “no state representation.”

Mr. Smitherman, kicking off his uphill bid in Canarsie, took a few digs at the twice indicted Mr. Sampson.

“Every day you open the newspaper and hear about the corruption,” Mr. Smitherman told his supporters. “In this district right now we have no state representation. Our incumbent has been kicked out of the Democratic conference. He cannot bring capital funds home to the district.”

“We have schools that can be built with those capital funds. Our public libraries–we can’t get those resources right now,” he added. “I don’t think Albany is working for this community right now.”

Mr. Sampson, a former Democratic majority leader, was indicted on corruption charges last year and this year. He has plead not guilty to both indictments and is seeking re-election to the eastern Brooklyn seat he has represented for almost 20 years.

As Mr. Smitherman noted, Mr. Sampson’s clout in Albany is significantly diminished. After he was first indicted, Mr. Sampson was booted from the Democratic conference–his ability to move bills or allocate money in the budget for his district is far more difficult than it was before.

Mr. Smitherman is also running with the backing of a united labor front, including the Working Families Party and his old union, 1199. Mr. Sampson’s campaign account is in debt as he pays mounting legal fees, further hampering his re-election efforts.

But Mr. Sampson will not be easily disposed. He is running with the tacit support of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, his longtime allies, and enjoys a significant name recognition advantage in the district.

Mr. Smitherman, however, is hoping his groundswell of labor and clergy support vaults him past Mr. Sampson and two other contenders, Sean Henry and Leon Miles.

“We have the numbers–this is the second densest labor district in the state. Labor comes together and endorses me and I come together with the community and the clergy, we’re going to win this election,” Mr. Smitherman declared. “We’re going to change the way we do business up in Albany.”

Mr. Sampson did not immediately return a request for comment.