Voters Will Have Little Say in Who Replaces Convicted Assemblyman Sheldon Silver

The race to fill Sheldon Silver's open Assembly seat is already beginning to take shape, the former Assembly speaker was forced to resign his seat Monday after being convicted on seven counts of federal corruption. But as NY1's Zack Fink reports, even though a special election may be held in April, party leaders will select the Democratic candidate, not the voters.

It's been nearly 40 years since there has been an opening to represent Lower Manhattan in the New York State Assembly.

Sheldon Silver, who began serving the district in 1977, was ousted as Speaker earlier this year after being arrested on federal corruption charges. He automatically forfeited the seat after being convicted Monday.

Now, candidates are looking to fill that seat which represents the neighborhoods of Chinatown, the Lower East Side and the Financial District.

"I am very seriously looking at it," said Democratic District Leader Paul Newell. "As you know I have run for the seat once before."

Newell, leader for the 65th District in the New York Assembly, unsuccessfully ran against Silver in 2008. But, it may not matter if voters are familiar with him.

The process for electing a candidate to succeed Silver is complicated.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said he may call a special election for April 19 to coincide with New York State's Presidential Primary.

If so, the 190 members Manhattan Democratic County Committee will select the candidate to appear on the Democratic ballot line, which many say is tantamount to winning the seat for the remainder of the term.

A primary for the following two-year term would then be held in September.

Jenifer Rajkumar, also a District leader, may run as well.

"Albany is a place where we definitely need reform," Rajkumar said. "And we need new energy that is going to put fresh ideas out there and raise the level of debate."

The two potential rivals say Silver's departure presents an historic opportunity for change.

"It's a tragedy," Rajkumar said. "It's sad. And I think we all need to come together and decide how we are going to move into the future at this point."

"So, Sheldon Silver has a complicated legacy," Newell said. "And he certainly was able for the people of lower Manhattan to bring resources that helped real people. But what he did do was preside over a system of government that made decisions for 20 million people based on who could buy their way in to his secret room."

If the special election goes forward in April, people familiar with the process say petitioning would begin February 1. That means the committee would likely select its candidate by late January, so this could all happen very quickly.

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