Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is under fire for his admitted mishandling of sexual harassment complaints against a powerful Brooklyn legislator, should be immediately replaced, former governor and ex-attorney general Eliot Spitzer said last night.
‘The Assembly should elect a new speaker right now,” said Spitzer, who is running for New York City comptroller, in a debate against Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, his Democrat primary opponent.
“The Assembly is broken. It’s ossified. It’s too rigid. There is an opportunity for new and creative leadership in the Assembly. It’s time for action.”
Stringer, who answered the question first, said the Assembly should “seriously consider whether to keep the speaker pending a full investigation.”
In response to Spitzer’s comments, a spokesman for Silver, Michael Whyland, told The Jewish Week: “He is not credible on much of anything, so consider the source.”
The two candidates traded pointed jabs for most of the debate on WCBS-TV, with Stringer saying Spitzer, who left office in a prostutution scandal, had no credibility to be the city’s fiscal manager and investment fund steward after breaking the law and resigning from the governor’s office in disgrace.
Spitzer retorted that his opponent supported the extension of term limits, which allowed city officials including Mayor Michael Bloomberg to stay in office.
He cited his accomplishments fighting Wall Street powerhouses on behalf of investors. “I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve also made a difference,” he said.
Stringer also attacked Spitzer for declining to fully release his tax returns for the past few years and for keeping offshore accounts. Spitzer rebutted that the accounts in question were not his but part of a charitable foundation established by his father, Bernard, a self-made real estate titan. Spitzer said his income tax rate was 49 percent last year.
Participation in the debte may have potentially cost the real estate scion close to $800,000, though. He reluctantly agreed that if elected he would forgo most of his $190,000 annnual salary during a four-year term and work for $1 a year, as does Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire. Spitzer stressed that there were “a significant number of zeroes” between himself and Bloomberg.
In some awkward moments, Spitzer said that had be been the prosecutor investigating another official’s patronage of a prostitution ring, he would not have sought criminal charges (the decision reached in his case), and he answered that he opposed legalizing prostitution, while favoring reform of marijuana laws.
The mood lightened during a round of questions that included asking both candidates to sing their favorite song. Stringer rendered only the eight words of David Bowie’s “We Can Be Heroes,” while Spitzer said his top tune was Bruce Springsteen’s “Land of Hope And Dreams.” When both confessed their lack of singing ability, Spitzer suggested the two might later have a drink together.”
“We definitely are going to hang out after this,” Stringer said.
Despite entering the race late and being out of public office for more than five years, Spitzer leads Stringer 56-37 percent in the latest poll by Quinnipiac University.