2009-06-12 / Top Stories

Smith Ousted From Senate Leadership Position

Rockaway Politician Cries 'Foul,' Says Move Is Illegal
By Howard Schwach

Senator Malcolm Smith, right, in happier days with new Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Senator Malcolm Smith, right, in happier days with new Majority Leader Dean Skelos. In a sneak attack that took the State Senate's Democratic majority by surprise, a cabal of Republicans and Democrats ousted a Rockaway politician from his seat as Senate Majority Leader late on Monday night.

Senator Malcolm Smith, a Rockaway businessman who was a top aide to Representative Floyd Flake and then a vote-getter in his own right, had risen to the top of the Senate heap only months ago, earning the top slot in the Senate and becoming one of the "three men in a closed room" that made all of the major decisions in Albany, the state capitol.

Now, however, experts say that he probably would not regain the leadership position even if the Democrats regain power over the legislative body.

How did Smith fall?

Two dissident Democrats, who had secretly been talking to the Republican leadership for weeks, bucked their party's leaders and joined with the 30 Republicans in the Senate to form what they termed a "bipartisan" deal.

That deal, however, effectively reestablishes Republican control over the body.

In January, the Democrats had seized power in the Senate for the first time in 40 years, earning 32 seats, a two-seat majority.

Now, that majority is gone and so is Smith's leadership position.

An hour after the coup was completed, Smith issued a statement saying that he was still in power because the takeover was illegal.

Nobody, however, took Smith seriously.

There was a quick vote for a new leadership, naming Republican Dean Skelos, the former Majority Leader, and Pedro Espada, one of the turncoat Democrats, to those leadership positions.

At press time, Smith and the Democratic minority were planning to go to court to overturn the takeover.

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