Assemblyman Carl Heastie, a soft-spoken Bronx Democrat, is set to be elected the next speaker of the State Assembly after a top rival conceded to him this afternoon.
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan of Queens bowed out of the frenzied, if abbreviated, backroom contest, assuring that Mr. Heastie would make history tomorrow as the body’s first African-American speaker.
“I am as aware of the historic nature of Assemblyman Carl Heastie’s candidacy as I am of my own,” Ms. Nolan, a Democrat, said in a statement. “I believe that I have put at least a scratch in the glass ceiling for women. I congratulate Assemblyman Heastie and I understand the joy that his election will bring to all communities of our state.”
Ms. Nolan confirmed to reporters in Albany she was withdrawing from the race after it became clear she would not have the votes to compete with Mr. Heastie. Mr. Heastie, the chairman of the Bronx Democratic Party, rapidly consolidated support over the past few days after a number of rivals ended their campaigns to endorse him.
Ms. Nolan, as she noted in her statement, would have made history in her own right as the first female speaker of the Assembly. But after several Democratic county organizations, including her own in Queens, and minority lawmakers threw their support to Mr. Heastie, it became clear she could not secure the 76 votes needed to become speaker.
The scramble for Assembly votes was briefer than expected; originally, February 10 was picked as the date to elect a speaker to replace Sheldon Silver, who will resign today after he was arrested on corruption charges. But once Mr. Heastie racked up enough votes, Assembly Democrats pushed for a Tuesday vote to return some stability to the body.
Several Democrats and some outside critics lamented how quickly Mr. Heastie was chosen. First elected in 2000, the 47-year-old Democrat has a relatively thin legislative record and drew the attention of the anti-corruption Moreland Commission for thousands of dollars in unitemized campaign expenses. Mr. Heastie’s association with Stanley Schlein, a powerful Bronx attorney and lobbyist who is no stranger to scandal, raised more questions.
Still, a flurry of negative news stories could not detract from Mr. Heastie’s momentum. Labor and business groups backed him as soon as it was apparent he was the unquestioned front-runner. Even Mayor Bill de Blasio lent his support behind-the-scenes, sources say. (Mr. de Blasio vigorously denied having a horse in the race.)
“I’m not ashamed to say I lost,” Ms. Nolan said.