By Bill Parry
Catherine Nolan’s hat is in the ring. The longtime Democratic assemblywoman representing the Ridgewood area announced Wednesday she is in the running to replace banished Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) in an election to be held Feb. 10.
“I am formally announcing my candidacy for speaker of the New York State Assembly,” Nolan said in a statement. “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.”
The leadership of the Assembly has been in a state of flux since Silver, the speaker since 1994, was arrested on federal corruption charges Jan. 22. His leadership is expected to end Monday after two decades. Silver said he will keep his legislative seat representing Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He was first elected to the Assembly in 1976.
In announcing the indictment, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “For many years, New Yorkers have asked the question: How could Speaker Silver, one of the most powerful men in all of New York, earn millions of dollars in outside income without deeply compromising his ability to honestly serve his constituents? Today we provided the answer: He didn’t.”
Democratic Majority Leader Joseph Morelle of Rochester is expected to take over as speaker on an interim basis.
Nolan, who heads the Education Committee and has chaired other major committees during her tenure, believes she could restore order in Albany.
“I have extensive experience working with constituencies from all over the state, and I have indeed ushered many proposals through both the budget process and the legislative process,” said. Nolan, who is close to Silver. “Whether the issue is education, labor, mass transit or women’s issues, I have been at the forefront of the process.”
Other members who have announced bids for the leadership role include Morelle, Joseph Lentol of Brooklyn, Carl Heastie of the Bronx and Keith Wright of Manhattan.
“Lost in the names that have been mentioned as potential candidates for speaker is that of a woman,” she 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 time for that ‘culture’ to end once and for all. I am committed to doing just that.”
Nolan was first elected to the Assembly as a 25-year-old in 1984 and was chairwoman of both the Labor and Banking Committees during her career. She has served on the highly influential Rules and Ways & Means Committees.
“Cathy Nolan is a well respected colleague and is an excellent candidate for speaker,” Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) said. “I look forward to hearing from all the designated candidates and hope my colleagues and I can get behind one person to lead this body going forward.”
Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) was delighted that Nolan “threw her hat in the ring” but was looking forward to hearing from the other candidates as well. “I’ve worked with Cathy for over 30 years and I think she’s definitely qualified, but I’m interested in hearing from all the other candidates as well because I wouldn’t vote for her just because she’s from Queens.”
Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Flushing) said, “This past week has been a big moment for the state Assembly as an institution and I look forward to hearing from all the candidates and their ideas on how to achieve reform.”
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) said, “I look forward to hearing proposals from all of my fellow colleagues. Ultimately, I will make my decisions based on the best interests of the families I represent.”
Nolan lives in Ridgewood with her husband Gerard Marsicano and their son Nicholas. “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,” Nolan said.
Silver tried to cling to power despite voices in his own Democratic Conference urging him to step down. While Gov. Cuomo did not call for his resignation, he did say, “The government has to work, and the distraction of what’s going with the speaker, it hurts the functioning of government.”
Nolan said, “It is time for this institution to return to the high standards that the people of our state rightfully demand and respect.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.