Silver’s Challengers Fight the Odds and Each Other

In this clip from the DFNYC-Young Manhattan Democrats debate last Sunday, both Paul Newell and Luke Henry are asked if they would step aside to improve the other’s chances against the incumbent they hope to unseat: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Both say no.

Henry, an attorney, also says he’s the more viable candidate because he has more lawyers and money. Community organizer Newell says that “there is no question” that “the winds of change are blowing” in the district.

Of course, the argument between Silver’s challengers about viability is purely relative. And perhaps one of them might feel more compelled to step aside if either had a a discernable route to victory. Consensus, needless to say, is that the don’t.

As consultant Joe Mercurio told me, “I can’t even envision a way to beat Sheldon Silver.”

Silver is all-powerful in Albany and well-known, if not universally beloved, among voters in his district. And as long as he can keep the majority of his two constituencies happy — his Democratic members in Albany and his residents on the Lower East Side — he’s not going anywhere.

Making it all the more unlikely that he’ll be troubled by his challengers this year is that anti-Silver voters in the district will likely be split between Newell and Henry.

Certainly, Silver doesn’t act particularly threatened. His campaign says he won’t attend debates and forums until the candidates are formalized, so he spent Sunday at a fund-raiser for the Downtown Independent Democrats, as he has done in years past.

The club’s president, Sean Sweeney, who hosted the event in his Greene Street loft, said Silver “spoke briefly,” and "didn’t say anything really political.”