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Smith gains support to be majority leader

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After months of uncertainty, state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D−St. Albans) is poised to become the majority leader of the Senate following a Tuesday night meeting of Senate Democrats, he said in a statement.

“We are one Senate, united behind the common purpose of getting New York back in a new direction, taking steps to create a more open, accountable and inclusive legislative process,” Smith said.

While Democrats won a majority of seats in the state Senate after November’s elections, the so−called Gang of Three, three renegade Democratic senators, threw the leadership of the Senate into turmoil by holding out support for Smith shortly after the Nov. 4 election.

While the statement did not explicitly say Smith had secured support from the gang, he apparently did so because the names of the three senators – Sens. Carl Kruger (D−Brooklyn), Ruben Diaz Sr. (D−Bronx) and Pedro Espada (D−Bronx) — were listed further down in the statement in a section listing the Democratic members and their new committee chairmanship posts.

According to the statement, Diaz will head the Aging Committee and Kruger will be chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which plays a major role in the state budget.

Espada will hold the title of vice president of the Senate for Urban Policy as well as the vice chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and the chairman of the Senate Housing Construction and Community Development Committee.

The meeting, held in Albany, was an informal gathering. The actual leadership vote was scheduled to be held Wednesday.

Gov. David Paterson is also slated to give his State of the State address that day, which officially ushers in the legislative session.

Following the address, the borough’s two new senators will start their first terms in Albany.

State Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst), Queens’ first Latino state senator, was sworn in amid controversy after he was arrested last month for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend with a broken drinking glass. Both Monserrate and his girlfriend claimed the incident was an accident.

Monserrate, who recently resigned from the City Council so he could serve in the Senate, ran unopposed in November after his rival, state Sen. John Sabini (D−Jackson Heights), withdrew from the race to take a post in the Paterson administration.

His Council colleague, state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D−Howard Beach), won his Senate seat after ousting longtime state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R−Glendale) in a contentious race.

Meanwhile, the borough will be without one senator because the race between state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) and City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows) has yet to be resolved. The outcome could also affect the balance of power in the Senate.

Ivan Pereira contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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