I CAUTION AGAINST UNDERESTIMATING STEWART-COUSINS…
I caution everyone against underestimating Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. She has exceeded expectations for decades and shattered glass ceilings in the process. And as she’s poised to break another in January when she’s sworn in as Senate Majority Leader, people can rest assured that she’s exactly the right person to lead our State Senate at exactly the right time.
Leader Stewart-Cousins is someone who climbed the hardest path up the mountain. When public confidence in Democratic Senate leadership was subzero, the Democrats chose her to turn it around. She did. Then for six years as Democratic Leader, she fought a multi-front war to bring her conference to the majority. She won. And in the process, she played a deciding role in passing progressive laws like the SAFE Act and minimum wage, despite being in the minority and despite diverse opinions in her conference.
As the first woman to ever rise to such heights in New York – and an African American woman at that- her success has been marked by struggles unlike those any person in her position has faced. She’s overcome them.
Just to get to the Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins took down a 28-year incumbent and, in the process, virtually every institutional player in Westchester County and New York State. She lost the first time by 18 votes. Two years later, she won by 1,800.
So, it’s not even a question that she’ll be willing to stand up to the Governor next year if necessary. And if history is any guide she’ll referee internal conflicts deftly if they arise because that’s what leaders do and that’s what she’s done as Leader.
Having worked for her, the Leader I know recognizes it’s impossible to please everyone. But she lives by a mantra which she often repeats: “If you do the right things for the right reasons the right things happen.”
And she’s practicing what she preaches by pushing issues like reforming our state’s arcane voting laws, improving public schools and protecting a woman’s right to choose.
She’s someone who understands pressure points: when to massage them, when to dig in her knuckles and everything in between.
She listens and thinks about consequences. She’s more deliberative than reactionary and she makes you want to sit up a little straighter in your chair when she walks in the room. Then she disarms you with a joke.
The Democratic Party is not a monolith. It’s a big tent held up by pillars of diverse opinion but equal importance. A Democratic Leader is like the rafter tying those pillars together and keeping the whole thing standing. That’s who Andrea Stewart-Cousins is. She’s a coalition-builder who brings people together – no matter how different in outlook or interest. She has all the characteristics of a great leader, but most importantly she has the record to prove that she is one. It’s not even a question.
The writer is a Vice President at Mercury Public Affairs and former Deputy Chief of Staff to Leader Stewart-Cousins