At the conclusion of her speech on Thursday at the state Democratic convention, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins was joined on stage by her Democratic colleagues.
Included among them was Sen. Jeff Klein, the erstwhile leader of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference, her new deputy in the conference and a lawmaker who faces an allegation of forcible kissing by a former legislative aide.
Klein has denied the event took place and has called on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics to review the allegation.
But Klein, whose conference dissolved and merged with the mainline Democratic conference in an effort to help the party take control of the Senate this year, has received the backing of establishment figures in the New York political world. And the allegation, unlike other men who have been accused of similar actions, has not made him a radioactive presence in New York politics.
Klein was formally endorsed Friday morning by Stewart-Cousins, who would become the first woman to lead a majority conference in Albany if Democrats gain control of the chamber.
“With Donald Trump in the White House, and Republicans controlling the agenda in Washington and stifling progress here in New York, the need for a Senate Democratic Majority has never been more pressing,” she said in a statement.
“We need all Democrats working together, united in our cause of turning New York ‘true blue. I am proud to support Senator Klein and endorse his re-election campaign. By working together, I know we will achieve a functioning Democratic Senate Majority and give New Yorkers the progressive leadership they deserve.”
Klein was previously endorsed by two of the state’s most political active labor unions, RWDSU, which represents retail workers, and the Hotel Trades Council.
“The Hotel Trades Council proudly stands with Jeff Klein and strongly endorses his reelection to the New York State Senate,” said New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council President Peter Ward. “Jeff Klein is a proven leader, who fights tirelessly—and delivers—for labor and all of New York’s working families. We need his continued leadership in Albany.”
Klein faces a primary from Alessandra Biaggi this year. As part of the unity agreement first announced late last year, Senate Democrats would not support those candidates challenging former IDC lawmakers.
Biaggi has been receiving her own share of endorsements, including most recently the Pelham Democratic Committee.
Democrats have also maintained that Klein will face whatever consequences develop should the JCOPE investigation find any wrongdoing.
The former aide who made the allegation, Erica Vladimer, criticized Stewart-Cousins for the endorsement.
“if female elected officials won’t stand up for victims, who will? #TimesUp, Senator,” she wrote in a tweet directed at Stewart-Cousins. “Politics should never get in the way of representing the 10 million women of New York. This is why victims don’t come forward.”