In what has become a quick moving set of events that seemed to overtake not only indicted Speaker Silver, but also a number of assemblymembers who pledged absolute loyalty to him, we will have an election for a new Speaker on February 10.
The leading candidates are both Democratic Party County chairpeople — Assemblymember Keith Wright, the New York County chairperson and Assemblymember Carl Heastie, the Bronx Democratic chairperson — although others including Assemblymembers Joe Lentol of Brooklyn and Cathy Nolan of Queens have been mentioned.
Wright and Heastie have the advantage of not being part of Silver’s inner circle. Additionally, they both as county chairs from large counties, have influence over big Assembly delegations.
Heastie has the added advantage of having part of Congressmember Crowley’s congressional seat in the Bronx. Crowley is the Queens Democratic chairperson and, as such, the leader of the state’s second largest Assembly delegation.
Crowley may feel he owes Heastie some level of loyalty for his support of his Congressional bids and as such move to influence his delegation to support Heastie. This would give Heastie at least 30 votes for speaker, with 58 necessary.
There is an additional rumor that the mayor has an interest in Heastie and has indicated that interest to his ally Brooklyn Democratic Chair Frank Seddio, who could supply the necessary votes to seal the deal.
So it should come as no great surprise that the next speaker will be made through a deal. And like sausage one should be concerned with what goes into making it. So let’s hope that at least one reform can be implemented – term limits for speakers, since Silver certainly proved that a speaker, like a sausage, has only limited shelf life before it spoils.
One welcome change when a new speaker assumes office would be allowing a fuller participation of all members. Silver earned a reputation for having an iron fist that stymied any and all ideas put forward by Republican and more junior Democratic members.
The simple reality is that majority members of legislative conferences will pass the most bills, control the budget and make policy. That being said, Republicans in the Assembly and junior Democrats put forth many good ideas each year that deserve an airing.
Right now, the only way these ideas see the light of day comes about through the idea being “stolen” by a more senior Democratic Assemblymember.
It is worth noting that the strangling hold in the Assembly on political minorities and junior Democratic members does not exist comparably in other legislative bodies including the State Senate where Democrats chair committees and pass bills.
This is not to suggest that Dean Skelos and his Republican majority do not rule the roost in that body, but it is clear that the process in the Senate is much more open than that in the Assembly.
The New York State Conservative Party will hold its annual political conference in Albany on Sunday, February 8 and Monday, February 9. Local Conservative Party leader Fran Vella-Marrone will be the master of ceremonies and, of course, Mike Long, as the party’s longtime state chairperson, will be chairing the event.
The two-day event has a number of notable panels and speakers and culminates with a dinner attended by Conservative Party-supported members of the legislature, at which time the party’s legislative agenda is released. This year’s panels include one that will be comprised of the newly elected Conservative Party state senators and another with the newly elected New York State members of Congress.
Carly Fiorina, the former chairperson of Hewlett Packard, will be the luncheon speaker.
Anyone wishing to attend may obtain more information by going to the New York State Conservative Party’s website or by calling the Conservative Party at 718-921-2158.
Jerry Kassar is the chairperson of the Kings County Conservative Party. He is a longtime community activist who has served as an officer or member of many organizations. He works for the state of New York.