Lentol withdraws bid to become Assembly speaker

Quickly exited race

January 29, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Will the next assembly speaker be from Brooklyn? Assemblymember Joseph Lentol (D-North Brooklyn) says he wants the job. Photo courtesy Lentol’s office
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Brooklyn Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, who on Wednesday announced that he would seek the Assembly speakership, suddenly withdrew from the race on Thursday, citing the need for a united front in Albany in the wake of the scandal surrounding Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“This has been a challenging period of time for all of us in the Assembly. At this time, I recognize that I do not have the support needed to become the Speaker. I, therefore, withdraw my name from consideration and support the candidacy of Carl Heastie,” Lentol said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Heastie, a Democrat, represents the Bronx, and is widely considered a frontrunner for the job.

Lentol, a seasoned lawmaker who has represented North Brooklyn neighborhoods like Greenpoint and Williamsburg since 1972, had been one of several Assembly members looking to succeed Silver.

The Albany Times Union reported on Wednesday that in addition to Heastie, Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle (D-Monroe County), Catherine Nolan (D-Queens) and Keith Wright (D-Manhattan) were also interested in becoming the next speaker.

The race appears to be very much in flux, however. The New York Daily News reported on Thursday that Wright has decided not to run after all.

On Wednesday, Lentol had signaled that he was serious about becoming Assembly speaker by writing a letter to his colleagues asking for their support. “As you know, I have always been collegial in my approach,” he wrote, promising his colleagues to reform the inner workings of the Assembly.

Lentol, who had pledged to “liberalize the operations of the NYS Assembly,” said, “I believe that once we agree to reforms then we can be more responsive to the citizens of New York state and, more specifically, to the needs of our constituents.”

Silver, who has served as Assembly speaker for 20 years, will vacate his powerful post on Monday. He was arrested last week and faces federal corruption charges. The election for a new Assembly speaker is expected to take place on Feb. 10.

Lentol alluded to the turmoil Silver’s arrest has caused in the Assembly but did not refer to the outgoing speaker by name in his letter. “We can weather this storm, but we have to do it together: upstate, downstate, suburbs, cities, rural, urban,” he wrote.

Lentol, who has served as the head of the Brooklyn delegation in the Assembly since 2001, is the chairman of the Codes Committee and is a member of the Rules, Ways and Means, and Election Law committees.

Lentol’s withdrawal means that Brooklynites lost their chance to have one of their own in the ultra powerful position of Assembly speaker.

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