Carl Heastie of the Bronx is gaining plenty of momentum in his bid to become the next speaker of the state Assembly. Before throwing his annual winter party for his fellow Bronx Democrats, Heastie spoke exclusively to statehouse reporter Zack Fink.
Carl Heastie, the Bronx Democratic leader, is the early frontrunner in the race to succeed Sheldon Silver as speaker, but he's cautious about claiming victory.
Heastie: When I have the opportunity to speak to every single colleague in the Assembly, it's difficult to try and make 106 calls in a short period of time, so I just want to have an opportunity to reach out to all of my colleagues.
Q: You haven't spoken to everybody yet?
Heastie: I haven't been able to get to everybody.
Heastie was first elected to the Assembly 15 years ago. He has lived in the district his whole life, which includes parts of Eastchester, Wakefield and Edenwald.
The list of Heastie's opponents is getting shorter. Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol dropped out of the race for speaker on Thursday. Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan of Queens remains in the race, although sources tell NY1 her home county organization of Queens is planning to support Heastie. Majority Leader Joe Morelle is also making a bid, but people close to the upstate lawmaker say he'd be fine to stay in his current position as second-in-command.
Heastie's supporters say they value him for his independence and his ability to stand up to the governor and Senate majority leader during budget talks.
"I try to have good relationships with anyone, even if you disagree on issues," Heastie said. "And I'm sure the governor and I are going to disagree, but he and I have always had the ability to speak to each other and even disagree."
Heastie would become the Assembly's first African-American speaker. There is a dearth of women and people of color in leadership positions in New York State government.
"It shouldn't only stop with me," he said. "My ability and position as county chair, I've been very supportive of women candidates, appointments and recommendations and things like that. And I love being a person who breaks the glass ceiling."
Heastie also said if he becomes speaker, he'll be more accommodating with interviews.
Q: You're not known as someone who likes to talk to the press. Do you feel you are going to do more of that as time goes on?
Heastie: I think I'm going to have to, unfortunately.
There were some fun questions for Heastie. He said his favorite food is lasagna, although he has been eating less of it as he tries to lose weight. Without missing a beat, he told us his favorite '80s movie is "Purple Rain." He is a big Prince fan.