By Juan Soto
This is state Sen. Malcolm Smith’s (D-Hollis) first primary campaign since he was elected to office in Albany in March 2000and the incumbent thinks the race has not been as noisy as he thought it would be.
Smith, who faces a retrial on bribery charges for allegedly trying to find his way onto the Republican line in the 2013 mayoral race, said he expects to come out on top of the Democratic primary Sept. 9.
“I expect to be elected,” he said in an interview with TimesLedger Newspapers.
Smith is in a three-way race leading up to the primary with former City Councilman Leroy Comrie and Queens Village attorney Munir Avery.
As a Democrat, he was the majority and minority Democratic leader in Albany and added that if re-elected he would rejoin forces with the mainline Democrats after caucusing with the Independent Democratic Conference in 2012.
“I was always a Democrat, all my life,” he said.
He explained why he joined the IDC, a breakaway faction of Democrats who have sided with the Republicans in a power-sharing agreement.
Smith said he jumped to the IDC in December 2012 to secure funding for the Rockaways and other areas devastated by Superstorm Sandy. He pointed out that in 2012 about 80 percent of his district was in the Rockaways area.
“When that storm happened, this new caucus was being formulated,” he said, pointing out that the IDC “didn’t need me” because the members had the necessary votes to push their agenda.
“I had a critical decision to make,” he said. “I have been the majority leader and the minority leader, so I know exactly how to get resources … and drive money to your district.”
He said that “the only thing I could do to help my district was being part of that coalition, and that’s what made me do it because I wasn’t going to join the Republican conference, because I am not Republican, but these were Democrats.”
When he made the decision, he remembered what his mentor, the Rev. Floyd Flake of Allen AME Cathedral, told him when he first ran for public office: “98 percent of what you do is serve your constituents.” Flake served as a congressman from southeast Queens from 1987 to 1997.
Smith was booted from the IDC after his arrest on the bribery charges.
The incumbent also said when he intended to run on the Republican line for mayor, “it was going to be a fusion ticket” in the same way as it was done by previous mayors like Ed Koch, Michael Bloomberg and Abe Beame.
“I studied their model,” he said. “I was going to run on the Republican line, on Democrats for Malcolm line that I was creating, on the Independence line and was in talks to run on the Conservative line.”
Smith likes campaigning and said he is running “an old-fashioned campaign, doing street campaigning, going door-to-door, to churches ….”
He got a big boost recently when he received the endorsement of the influential Flake, who has a 23,000-member congregation, and of DC-37, the largest public employee union in New York City.
“Their endorsements were huge for us,” he said, as he faces the political battle of his life.
During his 13 years in office, Smith said, his proudest work, among other pieces of legislation, was Operation SNUG, a program that addresses the gun violence problem in cities across the state, and the designation of the area around York College as part of Start Up New York, an initiative that allows new business not to pay taxes in their first 10 years of existence.
As for his legal battle coming up in January, he said, “I know who I am. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.