Shelly Silver looks up at two other politicians on this list: Andrew Cuomo and Mike Bloomberg. But anybody who wants to get anything done in New York State knows they need to go through the wily speaker of the State Assembly. Mr. Silver lacks Mr. Bloomberg’s billions, and Mr. Cuomo’s lineage, and he speaks in a monotone barely above a whisper. But he has outfoxed the others, and no piece of business gets done in New York State without Mr. Silver’s sign-off.
All of the big ideas that have been cooked up by think tanks and good-government groups have met their end if they didn’t pass muster with Mr. Silver. Congestion pricing? No. West Side stadium? Nope. Nonpartisan redistricting? Not unless it passes Mr. Silver’s smell test.
Andrew Cuomo, ever the student of history, has learned that life in Albany will be a lot easier for him without the Svengali of the Assembly around. Mr. Cuomo’s agenda is centered around making the state more business friendly and releasing New York from the grip of liberals and labor unions. Mr. Silver, an old New Deal Democrat who leads a conference dominated by urban legislators, has, shall we say, other priorities. And Mr. Cuomo, who has been in Albany since he was a teenager, has seen what happens when chief executives try to outmaneuver the clubhouse lion of the Lower East Side. Thus, according to reports, Mr. Cuomo has been casting about for a Democrat to overthrow Mr. Silver. For good reason, but so far, he has had no luck in tarnishing Mr. Silver.