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Assembly Speaker Silver will step down

Karen Dewitt

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will end his long reign as the head of the Assembly on Monday, say the Democratic members of the Assembly who announced they’ll hold a new election for Speaker on February 10th.

After two long days of closed door meetings, as Assembly Democrats reacted to the mounting fall out from Speaker Silver’s arrest on corruption charges, the Democrats now say Silver will leave his post on Monday.

But Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle who will serve as interim speaker, for about a week, was cryptic when describing how the speaker will actually exit.  

“There will be vacancy in the office of Speaker,” Morelle said repeatedly.

He would not answer when asked whether Silver would resign, or whether the Democratic Assemblymembers would have to vote the Speaker out of office.

Morelle says he met with Silver, and the Speaker  told him that he will “not impede the transition.”

Silver later confirmed that he would  “not hinder the process,” but did not say whether he would resign.

An election for a new speaker is set for February 10th.

Morelle, who has been viewed as a potential candidate for Speaker, says now is not the time for him to make any announcement about a candidacy.

Other potential candidates include Assemblyman Carl Heastie of the Bronx, Keith Wright of Harlem, Cathy Nolan of Queens, and Joe Lentol of Brooklyn. Lentol said earlier in the day that he will not formally announce his candidacy until Silver actually resigns or leaves the office.

“I think I have more to offer than any of the other candidates,” Lentol said. “I expect in the end that I will prevail.”

The announcement by Assembly Democrats that Silver’s 20 year rule will end was a markedly different stance then last Thursday, when the Speaker was taken into federal custody in handcuffs. Democrats then said that they would stand by the Speaker, but days of relentlessly negative news stories, editorials calling for Silver’s resignation, and public outcry changed that.

Assemblyman Jeff Aubry, of Queens, alluded to those developments.  

“Events and discussion ensued,” Aubry said.

But Aubry denied that Democrats bowed to outside pressure.

Most of the Assembly Democrats, who were present at Morelle’s announcement, were also tight lipped did not offer any comment.

The full Assembly will meet in session on February 2nd.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.