Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, Monroe County, is considered a front-runner for Assembly majority leader, the second-highest ranking position behind Assembly speaker. But he’s not making calls or lobbying Speaker Sheldon Silver.
“I made the decision that I did not want people to lobby the speaker. He knows the members as well as anyone,” Morelle said today. “He knows everyone’s relative strengths and weaknesses. I just didn’t feel comfortable lobbying for the position. It’s one he needs to be entirely comfortable with.”
Silver, who has held the Assembly’s top post since 1994, is expected to be re-elected speaker on Jan. 8, when the Legislature returns to Albany for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address on Jan. 9. The legislative session runs through June.
After Silver’s re-election as speaker by the Democratic conference, he would pick a majority leader. The decision rests solely with the speaker.
In an interview last week with Gannett’s Albany Bureau, Silver named Morelle and Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, D-Suffolk County, as potential candidates.
Morelle, 55, has served in the Assembly since 1991, and he’s also the Monroe County Democratic Committee chairman. He has a close relationship with Silver and Cuomo, whom Morelle backed for governor during his unsuccessful first run in 2002.
Cuomo praised Morelle as a possible majority leader in April, when current Majority Leader Ron Canestrari of the Albany area announced he would retire at year’s end.
But Morelle wants to respect Silver’s deliberations.
“It’s an important job, and the speaker has had to make these choices before,” said Morelle, the current Assembly Insurance Committee chairman. “Whatever way I can serve in the Assembly that best meets the needs of the people of the state and the people in my district is what I want to do. I’ll leave it to other people to speculate.”
Sweeney didn’t take himself out of contention, but he said today he thought the position would go to an upstate member—as it has since 1978.
“I think that in the end the need for geographical balance will be important, which would mean an upstater,” Sweeney said.
Because a majority of Assembly members represent New York City, the speaker has come from the city for over the last half century. The speaker then usually picks an upstate member for majority leader.