The days of “three men in a room” in Albany are over.
State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) is set to be picked as the next Senate majority leader on Monday — making her the first woman to lead a house in the state legislature.
The ascendance of Stewart-Cousins, who is black, will also mark the first time that both the state Senate and Assembly, which is run by Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx), will be headed by African-Americans.
Democratic activist Brette McSweeney said Stewart-Cousins’ new role was certain to put women’s issues — including sexual harassment and abortion rights — on the front burner in Albany.
“This is a historic moment,” said McSweeney, president of “Eleanor’s Legacy,” which promotes the election of pro-choice, Democratic women.
“It cannot be overstated how historic and important it is to have a woman — a black woman — at the table. It’s not three men in a room anymore.”
For decades, deal-making involving the state budget and major legislation has been hammered out in secret by the governor, the Senate majority leader and the Assembly speaker, who were always male.
But the shady practice of having “three men in a room” make the state’s most important decisions came under scrutiny amid recent corruption scandals that led to the convictions of former Majority Leaders Malcolm Smith and Dean Skelos, and longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
“Why three men?” then-Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara asked while announcing charges against Silver in 2015.
“Can there be a woman? Do they always have to be white? How small is the room that they can only fit three men? Is it three men in a closet? Are there cigars? Can they have Cuban cigars now? After a while, doesn’t it get a little gamy in that room?”
Democrats regained control of the state Senate earlier this month, when voters elected a host of candidates who will give the party a 40-to-23 edge over the GOP next year.
Democrats currently outnumber Republicans 32-to-31, but state Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) has tipped the balance of power by siding with the GOP.
Since the Nov. 6 election, Stewart-Cousins — who’s been minority leader since 2013 — has joked in interviews about how there would soon be “three persons in the room.”
Fellow Senate Democrats are scheduled to meet behind closed doors on Monday to decide whether to keep her in charge of their caucus.
The entire Senate will vote on its majority leader early next year.
State Sen. Shelley Mayer (D-Port Chester) said the elevation of Stewart-Cousins — coupled with the ouster of dozens of crooked pols in recent years — signaled a fresh start for New York’s scandal-scarred state government.
“We’re embarking on a new day,” Mayer said.
“I have incredible faith in Andrea’s integrity and her passion to doing the right thing and her commitment to public service.”
Source: Read Full Article