In the immediate hours after Sheldon Silver’s arrest last week, Assembly Democrats insisted they were not talking up replacement names for Speaker of the Assembly.
As one lobbyist put it: “The Assembly Democrats are like North Koreans. They are so used to their reverential leader, they can’t imagine a world without him.”
Over the past couple of days, though, Assembly Democrats have been privately discussing options in case Silver needs to go following his arrest on federal corruption charges.
If he goes, either forced out or on his own volition, the Democrats have some options.
If they wanted someone in a caretaker role, names of older, respected lawmakers come out: Joseph Lentol of Brooklyn, Jeffrion Aubry of Queens and Herman Farrell of Manhattan.
One insider said a Farrell selection could be the “most seamless,” considering his longtime chairmanship of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. His staff is involved in state budget talks, and he is African-American in a conference with an active minority caucus. But he is also 82 years old.
Others in the mix: Keith Wright of Harlem, though he might have eyes on other jobs, including Congress, and Bronx’s Carl Heastie, who sources said was making calls to some members feeling them out about a possible candidacy if Silver quits. Heastie has fiscal experience from days as an analyst in the New York City Comptroller’s Office and important labor allies.
Other names being mentioned include Manhattan’s Deborah Glick and Queens Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan. The one upstate name: Joseph Morelle, of Monroe County, the Assembly majority leader. But he has a couple of things working against him: he’s from upstate and has cozy relations with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Upstate raises an interesting dilemma for Silver.
For now, Democrats like Robin Schimminger of Kenmore and Sean Ryan of Buffalo have not called for Silver’s departure. But Silver for years has been a lightning rod upstate, and the continuing flow of news about Silver could put constituent pressure on them to break from Silver.
“It’s a big story downstate. But nobody in New York City knows who their Assembly representative is. Upstate, they do,” said a veteran Albany lobbyist.