Time to Rally Around the Leader

If you believe Eliot Spitzer, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz of Brooklyn is part of what’s wrong with Albany.

As one of several Democratic legislators who put himself forward as a possible replacement for departed Comptroller Alan Hevesi, Mr. Ortiz was deemed by the Governor to have been insufficiently independent of Albany’s vested political interests to take over the post.

Of course, Mr. Ortiz takes issue with that characterization.

“I’ve been here for 12 years, and if you see my bills, they’ve been very reformer,” Mr. Ortiz said, standing in that small hallway outside Room 344, the members’ lounge.

“The problem is, they haven’t gone anywhere,” he continued. “Because of the establishment.”

The establishment in the Assembly, for as long as Mr. Ortiz has been there, is the same one Mr. Spitzer is fighting today: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. (Asked to clarify his remark, Mr. Ortiz laughed and playfully feigned a punch to his questioner’s stomach.)

The joke, of course, is that despite Mr. Spitzer’s relatively indiscriminate attacks on the Assembly in recent days—or perhaps because of them—Mr. Silver’s standing among his members has skyrocketed.

“You’re going to see members more united to defend the institution,” Mr. Ortiz said. “It’s an attack against the institution, and the institution needs to be protected. And Eliot’s doing what he needs to do. I don’t blame the guy. He’s the Governor—he wants changes, and changes happen when people collaborate.”

Mr. Ortiz turned and headed into the members’ lounge, where his colleagues were picking at a selection of cheese, crackers and yogurt before a members-only meeting with Mr. Silver to determine committee assignments.