The Democratic leadership of the State Senate, fighting to maintain its slim majority, threw its support Wednesday behind insurgent Francesca Carlow in the Democratic primary to oppose Republican Sen. Kemp Hannon of Garden City in the general election.
According to several sources, the endorsement came after days of intense, behind-the-scenes pressure for Democrats to abandon their support of party favorite David Mejias, a former Nassau County legislator who was arrested last week and charged with menacing and stalking his former girlfriend.
Mejias could not be reached Wednesday despite repeated attempts, but he has scheduled a news conference Thursday in Farmingdale. He has denied the charges and remains free on bail.
The move by Senate Democrats, headed by Sen. John Sampson of Brooklyn, put them, at least temporarily, out of step with the statewide party. Jay Jacobs, who chairs both the Nassau County and state Democratic organizations, would not comment directly on the situation.
"I am waiting for Dave Mejias to make his announcement as to what he is doing," Jacobs said. "I don't want to jump ahead. I don't think that's appropriate, and I'll wait for it."
Mejias allies had conducted a three-week campaign to knock Carlow, a Plainview store owner, off the primary ballot. But lawyers for the county Democratic organization said the day after his arrest that they would drop their challenge.
Carlow held a news conference Wednesday in Mineola to accept the endorsement of the Senate Democrats.
"As someone who has never run for office before, I began this race because I am tired of the dysfunction and waste in Albany," she said. "I think we all are."
"Our children can no longer afford to stay on Long Island and raise their families," she said. "It's time for a new approach. It's time to use our resources to attract new businesses and high-paying jobs."
Democratic sources had said late Tuesday that Sampson had become increasingly concerned that if Mejias stayed in the race, Republicans would dredge up the case of former Democratic Sen. Hiram Monserrate of Queens, who was expelled earlier this year after he was tried and convicted on charges of assaulting his girlfriend.
Scott E. Kessler, the domestic violence bureau chief for the Queens district attorney's office and the prosecutor in the Monserrate case, was brought in to prosecute Mejias because Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said she has a "personal relationship" with the victim and the victim's family.