Steve Israel Is Going to Watertown, Malcolm Smith Is Not

ALBANY—Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm Smith will not, in fact, give the keynote address at the Jefferson County Democratic Dinner in Watertown this evening, but the event will still prove to be a major mixer for candidates looking to replace John McHugh in Congress.

"No," his spokesman Austin Shafran confirmed. "That was on the schedule a while ago."

Smith hasn't been sending out a public schedule in recent days as he works to retain his control of the Democratic conference, which in turn is fighting to stay in control of the State Senate. This afternoon, he's otherwise indisposed.

Before that, he was working to convince two of his upstate members in the conference—David Valesky and Darrel Aubertine—to not attempt to replace McHugh, who has been nominated as secretary of the Army.

I'm told that Representative Steve Israel, a Long Island Democrat who is the national recruitment chairman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, will be at the dinner in Watertown this evening, and with Smith's absence, may well end up giving the keynote address.

Israel will meet with several potential candidates for the seat, including Aubertine. Lots of Democrats—and Republicans—have told me he's the man to beat in the district.

Publicly, at least, Aubertine has said he is still keeping all his options open and is not affected by the leadership struggle in the State Senate.