Assembly Democrats Ponder Next Step
Wanted: Leader for a 150-member state-level legislative body. Budget experience a plus. Candidates under investigation need not apply.
That’s the situation Assembly Democrats find themselves in as they seek to end the tenure of embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a move that only a week ago before his arrest on corruption charges seemed unthinkable.
Silver is yet to signal that he plans to officially step down as speaker, a post he’s held since 1994.
“I am the speaker,” Silver declared last night as he was leaving the Capitol.
But Assembly Democrats made clear late last night following a five-hour meeting they are seeking his ouster, hopefully on a voluntary basis.
Democrats reconvene at noon today.
Silver’s removal could prove to be a cataclysmic event in state politics in chamber in which the speaker has only been questioned once by fellow Democrats in the last 21 years in failed leadership coup.
In addition to managing the Assembly’s operations and leading budget talks, the speaker is also charged with hiring everyone from those who answer the phones to the guy who orders office supplies.
Only one speaker in the post-Watergate era of Democratic dominance in the Assembly left on his own terms: Stanley Fink, who chose to not run for re-election.
The others either died in office, lost re-election or were convicted on felony charges, forcing removal from office.
Silver, who faces five counts of corruption and fraud, is yet to be convicted, or even indicted for that matter.
But the move against Silver exposed serious cracks within his coalition — a coalition that he had worked hard to cultivate and manage over the last generation of New York politics.
His ouster, at this point, appears to be led in part by a group of relatively young, relatively new lawmakers who do not have the deep ties to Silver and his leadership team that the five-member committee initially appointed to lead the budget negotiations.
This new coalition, with Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh as their seemingly unofficial spokesman, represents urban centers around the state, liberal, but not ideologically driven.
Ejecting Silver from the rostrum may be easier than what’s next, however.
While a majority of lawmakers may agree that it’s time for Silver to go, it’s not entirely clear who will replace him in the long term.
The chamber’s rules dictate the majority leader, Rochester-area Assemblyman Joe Morelle, automatically becomes interim speaker until the Assembly reconvenes — scheduled for next Monday.
Silver became speaker in 1994 on an interim basis following Saul Weprin’s stroke.
But Weprin had been visible ailing for weeks, and Silver, along with other potential successors at the time, had been building support in the event of the need to replace him.
Silver had previously signaled his interest in the job as well when Mel Miller was found guilty of corruption, though stepped aside at the end to back Weprin.
This time, no clear line of succession. None of the Democratic lawmakers who spoke last night after the meeting indicated a preference for who succeeds Silver.
Kavanagh last night said he is not a candidate for speaker “at this time.”
Assemblyman Keith Wright, a Manhattan Democrat who was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s co-chair of the Democratic Party, called on Silver to resign at midday on Monday.
Wright has been often mentioned as a Silver replacement himself, though some members may be skeptical of his ties to the governor.
Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie, who was part of the five-member committee proposal rejected by rank-and-file lawmakers, could still make a play for the job as well.
The adage once applied that you can’t replace someone with no one. For now, Democrats want Silver gone, but a plan for the future may be the most complex challenge of all.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Nick Reisman on January 27, 2015 at 8:43 am, and is filed under Assembly. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|