NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There is a major shake-up underway in Albany following the bombshell indictment of longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Will Silver’s replacement be a reformer, or part of the corrupt culture that has gripped the state capital for decades? CBS2’s Marcia Kramer looks at the ripple effects from Speaker Silver’s arrest.
It was the walk of shame. Speaker Silver walked out of the federal courthouse last week charged with bribery and extortion on a grand scale. His plea to keep the post while he fights the charges fell on deaf ears. He was unceremoniously dumped.
“On Monday there will be a vacancy in the office of speaker,” Majority Leader Joseph Morelle (D-Rochester) said.
Silver’s ouster sent all 150 members of the Assembly into hyper-drive to find a replacement — and here’s why you should care: You want the next speaker to be a man of impeccable ethics, unimpeachably honest. After all, he’s the man who will negotiate the new state budget and have a major say on such issues as raising the minimum wage, getting bad teachers out of the classroom and increasing funding for buses and subways, as well as Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road.
“This is an opportunity to really make a strong statement to the voters about how there’s a change in Albany and open up the process,” said Susan Lerner from Common Cause.
Common Cause and other good government groups are demanding that the Assembly hold public hearings where all the speaker candidates are forced to explain how they would change business as usual in Albany.
Right now there are four leading candidates to replace Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, and all are from the city.
They are: Carl Heastie, who doubles as Bronx Democratic chairman; Keith Wright, who is also the Manhattan party chairman; Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan; and Brooklyn Assemblyman Joseph Lentol.
For individual Assembly members, a lot could be at stake in who they vote for, Kramer reported.
“People are salivating over the number of committee chairmanships, lulus and other patronage to be doled out if the right speaker is there for the right group of people,” political consultant Hank Sheinkopf said.
The county political chairmen have been burning up the phone lines discussing Silver’s replacement, Kramer reported.
The leading candidate at the moment seems to be Heastie, who led a reform movement in the Bronx to depose former chair Jose Rivera, who is accused of nepotism and patronage, Kramer reported.