Silver Would Welcome Scozzafava

ALBANY—Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he would give a “warm welcome” to Dede Scozzafava if she were to switch into his conference.

Scozzafava ended her congressional bid Saturday and, after talking with Representative Steve Israel, Silver, Chuck Schumer and Andrew Cuomo, decided to endorse the Democratic Party’s candidate Bill Owens on Sunday. Republican leaders branded in “betrayal,” and Assembly Republican Leader Brian Kolb told me there would be “frank discussions” about Scozzafava’s role in the conference.

Silver was asked about his conversation with Scozzafava by Susan Arbetter on the inaugural broadcast of The Capitol Pressroom, and whether Scozzafava indicated any interest in flipping.

“The answer to your first question is yes I did speak to her; the answer to your second question is I don’t know, that was not the nature of our conversation at all. I think what Dede Scozzafava found out was that the Republican Party has two factions in it: the ultra right wing and the outrageous right wing, and that there is no room in the Republican Party for a centrist thinking Republican anymore,” Silver told Arbetter, who followed up by asking if there was any room for Scozzafava, who already has 109 of the 150 members of the Assembly in his conference, with the 110th pending. (Scozzafava would be 111!)

“There is always room,” Silver replied. “She has voted in a very enlightened fashion on many of the issues of the day, she does not take the ultra-right wing bend of the Republican Party, and clearly if she so chooses there is room her in the Democratic Party.”

This morning, Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long put out a statement questioning how Scozzafava was talked into endorsing Owens over Doug Hoffman, his party’s candidate who is now being backed by most Republicans, and suggesting assistance for her brother’s failing business was proffered.

“This is the kind on insider deal that makes people disgusted about politics. But it might go beyond insider dealing,” Long said in a statement. “Did Pelosi offer to pay off campaign debt or did Pelosi go even beyond that?  In a polluted political world where Pelosi would do anything for Bill Owens, voters have the right to know the full story about the Pelosi-Owens deal.”

Arbetter asked Silver if anything was offered for her support (which would be an illegal quid pro quo), or would be offered to flip her into the Assembly Democratic conference.

“Absolutely not,” Silver replied. “There is nothing I could offer her in terms of coming over to our conference except a warm welcome. Most of the members know her, most of the members like her, and most of the members think that she is a very enlightened Republican, part of what used to be the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party.”