Sampson Challenger Dell Smitherman Officially Kicks Off Campaign

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Smitherman (Source: Smitherman campaign)

Democrat Dell Smitherman officially kicked off his campaign to unseat embattled State Senator John Sampson yesterday at a launch event in Canarsie.

Flanked by family, friends and supporters, Smitherman said he’d stake his claim to represent the district on affordable housing, healthcare access and education.

“This district has a ton of potential, but we haven’t tapped into that potential yet,” said Smitherman. “That’s because in this district right now we have no state representation, and our incumbent cannot bring the resources we need back to our community. I’m running for State Senate to bring a real, progressive advocate to Albany, and finally demand our community’s fair share in the State Senate.”

The 19th District covers Canarsie, East New York and Brownsville, and also has a broad swath of Sheepshead Bay.

Smitherman, a former political coordinator for 1199 SEIU, has already picked up support from that union, as well as backing from Comptroller Scott Stringer and the Working Families Party.

The incumbent, Sampson, who served as Senate leader in 2009 when Democrats briefly controlled the body, has been charged with embezzlement and corruption, for which he has pleaded not guilty.

The New York Observer reports that the announcement didn’t go without a few swipes at 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.”

The site also reports that Sampson is running with the backing of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, giving him an advantage despite the legal woes. Two other contenders for the Democratic line have also announced: Sean Henry and Leon Miles.