Heastie’s leadership challenge in the Assembly
August 11, 2020
In less than five months, the incoming class of freshmen Democratic Assembly members will have their first significant vote when the chamber chooses the speaker for the next two years.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie hasn’t faced any significant opposition for the post since beating out a handful of contenders for the job in 2015, and is expected to officially be re-elected to the post in 2021. Based on recent interviews with The Capitol Pressroom, though, it doesn’t appear that all the fresh faces coming to Albany are excited about giving him two more years as leader.
When the question was posed to Phara Souffrant Forrest, a socialist who defeated a Brooklyn Assembly member in June, she paused for six full seconds before deferring an answer. “We’ll wait until … January to talk about that,” she said.
Zohran Kwame Mamdani, a socialist who unseated a Queens Assembly member, said his support for a leader will be contingent on them supporting a bold progressive agenda, which includes “good cause” eviction, new state revenue and more legislative power in the budget process.
He told The Capitol Pressroom that in a recent, “very nice conversation” with Heastie, he made it clear that his priorities are the same as what he ran on. “He heard me out and … I look forward to honestly working with anyone and everyone who is committed to this kind of agenda,” Mamdani said.
Khaleel Anderson, who won an open Assembly seat in Queens, believes there are “some issues in the Assembly,” and thinks it could benefit from the “horizontal leadership” model used on his campaign. He said the speaker needs to recognize the chamber is getting a new crop of progressive lawmakers, whose voices should be amplified.
“I’m certainly not opposed to (supporting Heastie),” Anderson said on The Capitol Pressroom.
Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, who beat a Queens incumbent, said she is open to hearing out any other candidates who might throw their hat in the ring.
“I think it’s important to listen to all the candidates. I really couldn’t say at this point how I would vote,” she told The Capitol Pressroom.
Two votes the speaker doesn’t likely need to worry about are Sarah Clark, who won an open Rochester primary, and Stefani Zinnerman, who won an open Brooklyn seat.
Clark said the leadership job can be like herding cats, and anticipated supporting Heastie for another two years. “I think he has done a great job,” she said.
Zinnerman credited Heastie with not kowtowing to the governor and noted that no one was opposing him. “I don’t have any information that would say he would not continue to be a good speaker, standing up for his members and the people who sent us to represent them,” she said.
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