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Catherine Nolan says she wants to replace Sheldon Silver as Assembly speaker

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Make that two men and a woman in a room.

The three-headed leadership of the New York State government, called “three men in a room,” could soon face a makeover now that Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan announced she wants to replace scandal-scarred Sheldon Silver, who stepped down as Assembly speaker this week.

If Nolan is elected by her fellow members of the Assembly next month, she’ll become the first woman to serve as speaker.

“I am formally announcing my candidacy for speaker of the New York State Assembly. In my 30-year Assembly career I have conducted myself with honesty and integrity. Serving the people of New York State has been my only job — whether it be my own constituents, schoolchildren or working men and women in our state. It will continue to be my only job,” Nolan said in a statement released today that aimed to separate herself from Silver, who has earned millions of dollars as a lawyer while serving as speaker.

Under New York’s rules of government, most key decisions on legislation, budget and other matters of state have been negotiated by the governor, Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader — posts no woman has yet to hold, giving rise to the term “three men in a room.”

“Lost in the names that have been mentioned as potential candidates for speaker is that of a woman,” Nolan said. “A woman has never served as speaker of the Assembly. The press has written extensively and derisively about the sexual harassment cases that have occurred in the legislature over the last few years. It is past time for that ‘culture’ to end once and for all. I am committed to doing just that.”

Silver was a key player in the handling of sexual harassment charges against former Assemblyman Vito Lopez of Brooklyn. Silver had approved a $100,000 settlement with two former legislative aides to settle charges against Lopez in a deal that was kept secret.

Nolan’s name emerged as one of several possible successors to Silver just days after he was arrested by the FBI on federal corruption charges. She was among a small group of lawmakers who were picked by Democratic leaders to share the responsibilities of the speaker’s office under an interim deal.

Now that Silver has agreed to give up his leadership role, Nolan has emerged as one of the first members of the Assembly to officially toss her hat in the ring as a permanent successor to Silver.

Silver, under pressure from Assembly Democrats, stepped down from the speaker’s post on Monday night. He said he will remain a member of the Assembly, but will not “hinder” the efforts to replace him, which should come by Feb. 11.

Until the Assembly meets to vote on Silver’s successor, the day-to-day responsibilities of the speaker’s office will be managed by Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle of Rochester, a close ally of both Silver and Gov. Cuomo.

Nolan, who represents Woodside, Astoria, Ridgewood, Maspeth, and Long Island City, has been a member of the Democratic leadership team in the Assembly, where she is chair of the Education Committee.

The Queens Democratic Party started pushing Nolan’s candidacy even before Silver announced he was relinquishing his role as speaker.

The speaker is elected by the majority conference in the Assembly. Democrats now hold 106 of the chamber’s 150 seats. Other members of the Assembly eyeing the post include Morelle of Rochester, Keith Wright of Manhattan, Joseph Lentol of Brooklyn and Carl Heastie of the Bronx.

“If elected speaker of the New York State Assembly, I will listen to the members of the Democratic Majority Conference with respect and dedication. I have the full support of my family and have been urged by many to step up to the challenges that face our great State of New York.

“It is time for this institution to return to the high standards that the people of our state rightfully demand and expect. I stand ready to work with my colleagues to do just that for the people of the State of New York. They deserve nothing less,” Nolan said.

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