Soon-to-be State Sen. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has been dealt a powerful hand in a high-stakes game. With a 40-seat Democratic conference due to take power in the state’s upper legislative house in January, she’ll have the numbers to pass bold legislation. But with a such a large and diverse conference, facing steep expectations and a long list of policy wishes, she’ll face a challenge keeping those numbers together, particularly with a powerful governor sitting elsewhere in the capitol building.
Stewart-Cousins acknowledged these tensions in a Wednesday interview with Max & Murphy on WBAI. She has 15 new Senators in her pack, which is an indication of the exciting wave of change that manifested in the September primary and on Election Day, but also a practical challenge: “We have to make sure that everybody is completely up to speed.”
Perhaps because of that learning curve, Stewart-Cousins was careful to avoid making too many commitments on big-ticket legislative items, although she did predict there would be action on early voting, the Child Victims’ Act and reproductive rights.
As for the shape of her conference, Stewart-Cousins said she had not been approached by (nor had she approached) any Republicans looking to abandon their conference and join hers. Simcha Felder, the Brooklyn senator who has run as a Democrat but caucused with the Republicans for his entire Albany career and who singly ensured a GOP majority for several years, has “reached out,” Stewart-Cousins said, adding that they will meet to discuss his role in the body.
The interview with the senator is immediately below, followed by the full show, which includes a chat with Assemblymember Latrice Walker on bail reform.
Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins