HARLEM — Politicians from across the city came out in full force Monday to support a suburban senator that they turned their backs on during last year’s election.
At a rally held in front of a statue of Harriet Tubman on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, more than a dozen elected officials voiced their support for state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins. The majority leader has been hobbled by Albany's Independent Democratic Conference, a splinter group of Democrats who vote with state Republicans, undermining the Westchester legislator's leadership.
Among Stewart-Cousins' most vocal supporters was Public Advocate Letitia James, who criticized IDC senators for breaking away from the rest of the party.
“We need to call out those who are fake, fraudulent and who are just towing the line for Donald Trump and those individuals who engaged in violent acts in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend,” James said during the Monday afternoon press conference.
But during last year's election, James supported a candidate who went on the join the IDC and is currently undercutting Stewart-Cousins' leadership post.
"When it comes to expanding affordable housing and supporting our working families, Marisol Alcantara has the vision for the job," James said last September.
Monday's rally for Stewart-Cousins came after a week of escalating political tensions in Albany and racial tensions in Charlottesville, and just hours before President Trump returned to his Midtown home.
Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that New York City lawmakers — including IDC leader State Sen. Jeff Klein — may better understand the suburbs than current elected officials representing those areas.
Stewart-Cousins is a black woman who represents Westchester, while Klein is a white man who represents The Bronx.
“You look at me, Mr. Governor, but you don’t see me," Stewart-Cousins told Cuomo, according to the Times. "You see my black skin and a woman, but you don’t realize I am a suburban legislator. Jeff Klein doesn't represent the suburbs. I do.”
Also last week, Daniel Loeb, a Cuomo donor and chairman of the Success Academy charter school network, responded to the story by writing that “hypocrites like Stewart-Cousins who pay fealty to powerful union thugs and bosses do more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood.”
At the rally, Cuomo or Loeb dodged criticisms from the city's progressive politicians, with attendees instead turning their focus on Trump and white nationalists.
Stewart-Cousins' supporters argued that in order to resist Trump's agenda, Albany Democrats cannot afford to give up their senate majority by splitting into two groups. In order to stand up to Trump, they reasoned that they must stand behind Stewart-Cousins.
“In the post-Trump era, there is no wiggle room,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat.
However, Alcantara, the senator who joined the IDC, was Espaillat's handpicked successor. Like James, the congressman strongly backed Alcantara's campaign.
However, none of Monday's speakers addressed this apparent irony during the rally.
Loeb wasn’t completely exempt from criticism. Comptroller Scott Stringer said he received a donation from Loeb seven years ago and now plans to return it in the form of a campaign contribution to Robert Jackson, who is running against Alcantara next year.
Additionally, Al Sharpton's National Action Network announced that unless Loeb resigns, it will organize protests outside every Success Academy school once the academic year begins.
Stringer encouraged others to support anyone challenging members of the IDC.