Local Politicos React to Sheldon Silver’s Conviction

October 2012: Silver joined community activists, other elected officials to protest the closing of the Cherry Street Pathmark store.

October 2012: Silver joined community activists, other elected officials to protest the closing of the Cherry Street Pathmark store.

People in the community have now had a little bit of time to process yesterday’s conviction of Sheldon Silver on federal corruption charges.  Here are some of the comments we’ve gathered in the past 24 hours from local politicos.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron:

From the facts in the trial to the fact that our community has joined the growing list that has lost a representative to criminal conviction, this must be another urgent call to change how Albany works — closing the LLC loophole, campaign finance reform, and more. It’s certainly somber for many in Lower Manhattan, where he was a stalwart on issues like rebuilding after 9/11 and school overcrowding, and across the state, where there is no joy in again being reminded just how broken our state government is.

City Council member Margaret Chin:

As an elected official who proudly represents some of the same people who repeatedly put their faith in one man to further their best interests in Albany, I have been troubled by the steady stream of revelations regarding Mr. Silver’s conduct. Today’s verdict by a jury of his peers confirms the worst of those allegations. By committing the crimes of which he now stands convicted, Mr. Silver betrayed the trust of voters who have the right to expect honesty, integrity, and ethics from their elected representatives.

John Quinn, Lower East Side Democrats:

We’ve lost a stabilizing force in our community. No matter what you might have thought about him, Shelly showed up. He was there when we needed him. The guy has done a lot of good things — from bringing new schools downtown to keeping senior centers open. It’s sad. I think we’re all in shock.

Virginia Kee, United Democratic Organization/Chinatown activist:

I feel very sad about it. Sheldon Silver has always been very helpful to our community. I think political leaders should be accessible and Sheldon Silver was always accessible to us. Whether it was improving the Grand Street subway or helping to fund our senior lunch program, he did a lot. I don’t know about the case, about the trial and the accusations. But I think he should not just be judged (on the details of the case) but also on the good that he did over many years.

And finally, Sean Sweeney of Downtown Independent Democrats (DID), noted that the citywide and statewide press are having a field day denouncing Silver. While pointing out that Silver was never particularly supportive of DID candidates, Sweeney said he always found him to be courteous and respectful. Silver, he added, was not someone you wanted to cross and could be ruthless. But, Sweeney concluded, it’s undeniable that he did good things for Lower Manhattan.

Governor Signals April 19 Special Election to Fill Sheldon Silver Assembly Seat

Sheldon Silver rallied in Chinatown with community activists last year.

Sheldon Silver rallied in Chinatown with community activists last year.

Residents of the Lower East Side and other Lower Manhattan neighborhoods woke up this morning with no representation in the New York State Assembly. It is the most immediate impact of yesterday’s conviction on federal corruption charges of Assemblyman Sheldon Silver. After four decades in Albany, Silver was immediately forced to relinquish his seat in the 65th Assembly District.

This morning, Governor Cuomo told the New York Observer, “I am looking at calling a special election for the Sheldon Silver seat as well as two other vacancies that exist now for April 19 (the same day as the presidential primary)… I believe that’s within the legal deadlines and that’s the date we’re looking at.”  As we have reported in the past, it is likely that the Democratic nominee will be chosen by the County Committee, a group of party insiders from Lower Manhattan. Since the Democratic Party is so dominant in the assembly district, the general election is little more than a formality.

In the past few months, speculation regarding Silver’s successor has centered on two downtown district leaders: Paul Newell and Jenifer Rajkumar. Newell, who unsuccessfully challenged Silver in 2008, told The Lo-Down earlier today, “I am seriously looking at pushing ahead (with a campaign for the seat).” Newell said he will be meeting soon his his campaign committee. As Crain’s noted today, Newell has raised about $47,000 as of the summer filing period.

Rajkumar, who took on Council member Margaret Chin two years ago, is keeping a somewhat lower profile. In a statement today, she called on the people of Lower Manhattan to join in tackling the big issues facing the community. “Working together,” she said, “we can replace the culture of corruption in Albany with a culture of service. I look forward to being a part of this movement in any way that best serves our community and ensures honest and effective leadership for the future.”

Other candidates are likely to emerge. The downtown political clubs, all with delegates at the county committees, will likely have a significant role in choosing the next Assembly member from Lower Manhattan. Newell and Rajkumar are both from Downtown Independent Democrats, so members of that club will be called on to choose between them. Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li said this morning she’s keeping her options open. This past summer, a controversy over petition signatures derailed her bid to challenge Rajkumar for district leader.

The Truman Democratic Club, Sheldon Silver’s political organization, has a slate of country committee delegates. So in spite of Mr. Silver’s removal from office, he’ll still wield a certain amount of influence. The United Democratic Organization in Chinatown and the Lower East Side Democratic Club will also both be players in the political process. In an interview a short time ago, John Quinn (longtime leader of LES Democrats) said he fears the sudden power vacuum will lead to infighting throughout the district. He’s worried that the East Side could lose out to West Side if credible candidates do not emerge to take on Newell and Rajkumar.

We also have reaction from downtown politicos regarding the Silver verdict. Stay tuned for a separate post on that.


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