Legislators returned to Albany on Monday and booted state Sen. Malcolm Smith from the Independent Democratic Conference two weeks after federal agents arrested him on bribery charges.
“If [the Democrats] are willing to take him on, if they want to make him a part of their conference, they’re free to do so,” IDC spokesman Eric Soufer said.
But the Democrats didn’t seem to want him either.
“I don’t foresee that happening,” Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said at a press conference on campaign finance reform. “He hasn’t asked to come back.”
Her colleague, state Sen. Jose Peralta, was more direct.
“No, he’s not coming back to our conference,” he said.
Smith was one of three legislators collared in two separate conspiracy scandals during a two-week break in the legislative session this month. One member, Assemblyman Nelson Castro, has already been forced to resign.
Disgraced Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, arrested last Thursday, was in Albany did not return to the Assembly floor yesterday. But Smith took his Senate seat, which had been moved to the far left corner on the Democratic side of the chamber, where convicted ex-lawmaker Carl Kruger once sat following his arrest on corruption charges.
Smith had already lost his committee chairmanship and was stripped of his committees earlier this month. On Monday the Senate voted to remove him from their majority conference, which ignited a debate among senators over committee membership. Democrats argued that Smith’s removal meant that several committees must shed a Republican member, since the majority’s percentage had changed from 57 to 56 percent.
“We are asking them to follow the rules,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris said, though the issue remained unresolved when the session ended. “Our numbers are the same.”
It was a strange day for the man who was once Senate majority leader.
The usually loquacious lawmaker walked quickly past reporters on his way into the session, saying, “I’m here to serve my constituents.” Then Smith had to watch his colleagues vote him out of his conference and debate the technical consequences of that move. State Sen. Ruben Diaz chatted with him during a brief recess on Monday afternoon, but most legislators appeared to shun him.
“Sadly this is a circumstance with which we are familiar,” Gianaris said. “I have not talked to him since this happened.”
Sen. Liz Krueger said that she has not had a social relationship with Smith and added that she would have pushed ethics and campaign finance reforms regardless of the deeds of her peers. And state Sen. Bill Perkins called Smith’s arrest an “unfortunate moment” that has happened too many times.
“Needless to say, it’s very uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as it is for the community to have this dark cloud looming over Albany again,” he said.
Smith declined to comment to reporters as he left the Senate on Monday.
This story was updated to reflect that Assemblyman Eric Stevenson did not return to the Assembly floor, but he was in Albany yesterday.
Tags: Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Bill Perkins, Carl Kruger, Eric Soufer, Eric Stevenson, IDC, Independent Democratic Conference, José Peralta, Liz Krueger, Malcolm Smith, Michael Gianaris, Nelson Castro, new york state senate, ruben-diaz