Do you know much about Andrew Stewart-Cousins? Her leadership style is so low-key and selfless that few constituents know much about her life.
Do you have confidence in Andrea Stewart-Cousins as the next majority leader of the state Senate?
I do not know anything about her.
Yet, the Tuesday, Nov. 6 election has catapulted her to a position of huge political power in Albany. Democrats retained control of a majority of seats in the state Senate.
Come January, Stewart-Cousins is expected to become the first woman in state history to lead majority control of a legislative chamber in the New York General Assembly.
The 68-year-old Yonkers resident also is one of the leading African-Americans in New York state government.
During the fall campaign, Stewart-Cousins joked it's about time to end the longstanding domination of "three men in a room" negotiating key legislation. It was a reference to the governor, Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker, who have always been men.
She will now be one of the legislative leaders -- and the only woman -- negotiating the budget and key pieces of legislation with Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New Castle and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
Nov. 6 election victories also mean Democrats now control the state Senate, the Assembly, the offices of governor, attorney general and controller as well as the state’s two U.S. Senate seats. That should help give New York more clout in Washington, D.C. as state officials negotiate federal issues and spending.
The wins also knock down barriers to legislation blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate chamber for a decade.
Neglected legislation includes voting rights -- such as early voting -- gun control, health care, reproductive rights, rent protections, new ethic rules and more protection for victims of domestic violence and passage of the Child Victims Act, giving abuse survivors more time to bring criminal and civil claims as adults.
“The voters of New York State have spoken and they have elected a clear Democratic majority to the State Senate,” Stewart-Cousins said after Tuesday's election.
Last but not least, the Legislature’s top two leaders -- Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie -- are black, making Gov. Cuomo the "minority" during three-way negotiations.
Stewart-Cousins represents District 35 in the New York State Senate. Before being elected to the State Senate in 2006, Stewart-Cousins was a member of the Westchester Board of Legislators.
In 2012, she was chosen by her colleagues to lead the Senate Democratic Conference.
She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Pace University and her teaching credentials in Business Education from Lehman College.
She received her Masters of Public Administration from Pace University in May 2008.
She spent about 20 years working in the private sector, including 13 years in sales and marketing with New York Telephone/AT&T. She also pursued a career in journalism and teaching before entering public service.
Stewart-Cousins's public service career began in 1992, when she was appointed as the director of Community Affairs in the City of Yonkers; she was the first African-American woman to hold that position.
Stewart-Cousins created an internship program for the hearing-impaired and for children in working families. She advocated for and contributed to the revitalization of the City of Yonkers and was a founder of the original "Art on Main Street," as well as a co-creator of "River Fest," which for more than 20 years has been a widely attended multi-cultural citywide celebration on the Hudson River in Yonkers.
She was married to the late Thomas Cousins, and has three children and four grandchildren.
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