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Boro Assembly members likely to side with Silver vs. Spitzer

Two members of the Queens Assembly delegation said the vote to replace Hevesi as state comptroller was expected to take place Wednesday, after press time. Hevesi was forced to resign after pleading guilty to a felony for using a public employee to chauffeur his ailing wife.The election of DiNapoli - described Tuesday as close to a done deal - will represent the first major political setback for Spitzer, who steamed into Albany on the momentum of a landslide election victory and vowed to reform state politics.Part of Spitzer's pledge involved looking outside of Albany for Hevesi's replacement, but in the political struggle to find Hevesi's successor the governor appears to have lost out to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (D-Saratoga Springs). Together the three politicians form the powerful Albany institution known as "three men in a room," a triumvirate that has held sway over state politics for decades. In this case, Bruno and Silver appear to have reached out across the aisle in an attempt to check the new governor's power.Spitzer released a statement Tuesday that urged state lawmakers to "set aside politics, partisanship and institutional concerns and act purely in the public interest" in the vote for comptroller.Spitzer also sent a letter to the 212 members of the state Legislature saying it would be a "huge mistake" not to pick one of the three finalists for the comptroller's job chosen by an independent panel.The power struggle between Spitzer and Silver began after the panel, whose members were appointed by the governor, came back with only three recommendations. Silver and Spitzer had previously agreed that the next comptroller would be chosen by the Legislature from among the finalists. But Silver said the agreement called for five candidates to be selected, while Spitzer said the agreement called for "up to five" candidates. Silver and his Democratic colleagues felt slighted and have since decided to support DiNapoli."We felt a bit like we were being steamrolled," Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans) said. "It seemed like we had a runaway panel."In recent days, as it became clear that Silver would not back one of the three candidates chosen by the panel, Spitzer accused him of reneging on their agreement. But Scarborough and Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) said Silver told the Democratic conference Monday that Spitzer's panel had violated the arrangement by only selecting three finalists.Both Peralta and Scarborough - who said the election would take place Wednesday and that DiNapoli would likely win - downplayed the idea that the comptroller battle would permanently strain the relationship between Spitzer and Silver.But even before Spitzer's election, political observers were forecasting a clash between the governor and Silver. The only surprise may be just how quickly it began to manifest itself. Ironically, it appeared Tuesday that Senate Republicans would align themselves with Assembly Democrats to elect DiNapoli as the next comptroller. State Sen. Frank Padavan (D-Bellerose) acknowledged that he would support Democrat DiNapoli and described him as a "hardworking, intelligent and capable" legislator.Padavan declined to comment on the political implications of Silver and Bruno (D-Saratoga Springs) pooling their interests, apparently to counterbalance Spitzer.While the state comptroller generally flies well below the radar, the position wields great power, with wide authority to audit the use of public money. The comptroller is also responsible for investing the state's $140 billion pension fund.Reach reporter Craig Giammona by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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