Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver faces a key test tomorrow when he meets privately with his 106-member Democratic Conference. After his arrest on corruption charges Thursday, members will be looking for assurances that Silver is still capable of leading the Assembly. In advance of that meeting, some downtown political activists are sending a message: it’s time for the longtime Speaker to step aside.
A political club, Downtown Independent Democrats, approved a resolution today after lengthy deliberations. It reads:
Given the serious charges against Sheldon Silver and the important business for the people of the State of New York that needs to be attended to, the Downtown Independent Democrats call for Sheldon Silver to immediately step down as Speaker of the New York State Assembly.
Publicly, Democratic leaders in the state Legislature have stood by Silver, but as the Daily News reported today, members are weighing their options and quietly jockeying for position. Among downtown politios, only State Sen. Brad Hoylman has called for Silver to resign. Sen. Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh have not weighed in publicly.
Tonight Jeanne Wilcke, president of Downtown Independent Democrats, told us members of the club agonized over the decision for a couple of reasons. Some people pointed out that Silver has done a lot of good for downtown communities and everyone is concerned about the fate of key legislative battles in his absence (such as the renewal of rent laws and raising the charter school cap). The vote was also not an easy one from a political perspective; Silver is still in power and is legendary for punishing those who cross him.
A prominent club member, Paul Newell, unsuccessfully ran against Silver in 2008. In the Daily News this weekend, he argues that the Speaker’s arrest should give Albany all the courage it needs to pass meaningful ethics reform legislation.
UPDATE 9:07 p.m. The Daily News reports tonight that Silver is part of ongoing talks that could prompt him to step down:
Embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is in discussions with top Democrats in his house about possibly stepping aside as leader, the Daily News has learned. “It’s very early in the conversation,” a source with firsthand knowledge of the talks said Sunday. “It could go in many different ways.” … “It could be something that is discussed (Monday) with members in conference,” the source said. “It’s in the early stages. It’s one of just several options being looked at.”