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Jeffrey Klein survives NY Senate primary challenge

ALBANY -- The co-leader of the State Senate defeated his Democratic primary opponent Tuesday, but another incumbent state senator was defeated.

Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) defeated G. Oliver Koppell 63 percent to 36 percent, according to unofficial reports.

But Sen. Malcolm A. Smith (D-Hollis), one of three indicted lawmakers facing primaries, was beaten by Leroy Comrie, a former city councilman, 69 percent to 19 percent. The other two indicted senators won.

Klein faced a rare intraparty challenge for a legislative leader from Koppell, a former state attorney general and former New York City councilman.

Klein leads the Independent Democratic Conference, which broke away from the traditional Democratic fold in 2011 to form a majority coalition with Senate Republicans. Now, Klein said he will work with the main body of Democrats in a more united effort after he and his four IDC members were accused by many Democrats of being turncoats.

Koppell, in the only debate for the 34th Senate District seat, called Klein's action a "most outrageous political betrayal."

Klein has said he used his share of leadership to restore order in Albany and passed measures including a tougher gun law, legalization of same-sex marriage, and expanded prekindergarten. He called them "core Democratic legislative accomplishments."

One of Klein's IDC members, Sen. Tony Avella (D-Whitestone), was leading in his battle to keep his 11th District seat, 52 percent to 48 percent with 80 percent of the vote in. Avella faced John Liu, the former New York City comptroller and recent mayoral candidate with strong name recognition and support among the growing population of Asian-Americans in the district.

Liu had centered his opposition on Avella's jump to the IDC in February, arguing it helped keep Republicans in power. Avella said he moved to leave the nearly powerless Democratic minority conference so he could gain a share of the bipartisan majority.

The other two incumbents under indictment and facing primaries were Senate Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton) and Sen. John Sampson (D-Brooklyn). Smith and Sampson were Senate majority leaders in the tumultuous and gridlocked 2008-10 term, which Klein said prompted him to form the IDC in 2011.

Smith faced Comrie and Munir Avery, a lawyer, in the 14th Senate District race. Smith is accused by federal prosecutors of trying to bribe his way into the mayor's race as a Republican.

Sampson defeated a challenge in the 19th District from Dell Smitherman, former political director for the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers union.

Sampson, a lawyer, was indicted and accused of using funds from foreclosure sales he oversaw as a court-appointed referee for his one-time campaign for Brooklyn district attorney.

Libous, who has long been the second-most powerful Republican in Albany, defeated Denver Smith. Libous, in the Senate since 1989, is charged with lying to federal agents as they investigated a job his son landed.

The senator is accused of using his position to get the job for his son in a politically connected law firm. His son is also charged.

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