One Sen. Smith ascends as a second Smith falls

By Craig Giammona

In October, state Sen. Malcolm Smith was introduced on the steps of City Hall as the next leader of the state Senate Democrats. The career of Smith's Senate colleague, Ada Smith, went in the opposite direction, however, as the nine-term legislator was narrowly defeated at the polls by political newcomer Shirley Huntley.The defeat came on the heels of a harassment conviction.Malcolm Smith rise to the post of Senate Minority Leader was mostly about back-room political brokering. In January, state Senate Minority Leader David Paterson announced that he would join Eliot Spitzer's gubernatorial ticket at a candidate for lieutenant governor. With a Spitzer win all but assured, the search was on for Paterson's replacement in the Senate. Smith's name immediately surfaced, despite the senator's attempts to downplay his interest in the job. In September, Smith's name surfaced again as reports swirled that a handful of senators were working behind the scenes to line up the votes necessary to succeed Paterson. Smith was ultimately successful and this week will take over as state senate minority leader.The real question in the Ada Smith senate race was whether Shirley Huntley had he political wherewithal to buck political inertia and defeat a longtime incumbent.Ultimately, the answer was yes, as Huntley pulled off the upset, defeating an entrenched incumbent who was backed by the Queens Democratic Organization. Smith conceded the primary race on Sept. 22 and, in a district where Republicans are few and far between, Huntley went on to take 85 percent of the vote in the November General Election. In June, Huntley entered the Democratic primary race and vowed not to attack Smith, who at the time was accused of assaulting a staffer in her Albany office. The story garnered national media attention and brought bizarre incidents from Smith's career in Albany back to the forefront.”This race is about me and what I can do,” Huntley, a longtime education advocate said repeatedly during the race.While it was clear throughout the race that Ada Smith's involvement in the alleged coffee-throwing incident had some voters clamoring for change, defeating an incumbent is always difficult and the race went down to the wire with Huntley eventually earning a 297-vote victory.Reach reporter Craig Giammona by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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