Corruption-tarred Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Lower East Side) will step aside from his top post by Monday and be replaced -- for now -- by Democratic Majority Leader Joseph Morelle of upstate Rochester.
The development came after a 6-hour closed-door meeting of Democrats.
Silver, who has served as the highest-ranking state assemblyman since 1994, was charged by the feds last week with pocketing $4 million from bribery and kickback schemes.
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“The developments, announced after a daylong gathering of Democrats in Albany, gave Mr. Morelle a running start in a contest that also features several downstate aspirants, and that holds enormous consequences for New York City.
Mr. Morelle had quickly emerged as a strong candidate from upstate New York.
An affable floor leader with an MC's demeanor and a wrestler's build, Mr. Morelle, 57, who was first elected to the Assembly in 1990, was for a decade Democratic chairman in Monroe County, a liberal enclave in a largely conservative part of upstate New York ...."
Morelle will be interim speaker and Silver, 70, told a crush of reporters in Albany Tuesday night that he "won’t hinder the process" to permanently replace him. Over the weekend he had agreed only to temporarily give up his duties.
Impatient -- and embarrassed -- Democrats on Tuesday threatened to forcibly remove Silver if he refused to give up power. He will remain in office as an assemblyman as the charges against him play out.
Newsday is reporting that while Morelle is certainly a contender to win the coming jockeying to formally replace Silver -- a vote is set for Feb. 10 -- other contenders include Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn), Keith Wright (D-Manhattan) and Cathy Nolan (D-Queens).
Reports Newsday: “Heastie is considered the front-runner by some, but legislators said the situation was very fluid.”
Heastie is believed to be Mayor Bill de Blasio’s choice, reports The New York Daily News.
The mayor told reporters he believes Silver deserves due process, but has made clear he wants the powerful Speaker post to be held by someone from the five boroughs.
“It’s been tough enough to get our fair share even with a speaker from New York City, so one can imagine that with someone from outside, it might be even harder,” he said.