Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle has taken himself out of the running for the speaker position.
Morelle is instead throwing his support behind Assembly member Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat who is now the front-runner for the job. Throughout the week, Heastie has had growing support within the Assembly's Democratic conference, and has also picked up the support of some influential New York City party leaders. Morelle released the following statement this morning:
“Over the past several days Assemblyman Heastie and I have discussed at length how to advance the best interests of the citizens of our state by making the New York Assembly more inclusive and member-driven. Carl and I have served together and have been close friends for 15 years. I have the utmost confidence in his ability to unite our members and move the institution forward. He will have my full support.
“I am incredibly grateful to the members of our conference for their ongoing friendship and support throughout this process. United and working together we continue to address the pressing challenges facing New York. It is this commitment that will guide our work over the coming year and inspire us to even greater heights.”
Last week, the US Attorney's Office filed five corruption-related charges against Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has said he'll be vindicated in court. Initially, Assembly Democrats stood behind Silver, but after a pair of meetings earlier this week they said they'd replace him. Silver has said he won't stand in the way of the effort to elect a new speaker.
Morelle is set to take over as interim speaker on Monday, and the Democrats plan to vote for a permanent speaker on February 10. Aside from Heastie, the only remaining candidate is Assembly member Catherine Nolan of Queens.