BY JORDAN GIBBONS
With the primary election approaching on Tuesday, State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) said he believes that his experience in the State Senate speaks for itself.
During an interview at the Queens Tribune office this week, Smith said he is never overly optimistic about his chances in the election for the 14th District, but he referred to himself as an expert in the State Senate, citing his time as Minority Leader, Majority Leader and acting Lieutenant Governor.
“Our community cannot afford to wait another five or 10 years for someone to gain the experience that I have,” Smith said. “That’s the biggest stark difference.”
Smith said jobs and education are his two most important issues for the upcoming year. For the next legislative session, he wants to focus on the DREAM Act, Campaign Finance Reform and pay equity.
But he added that the main issue with working in Albany is knowing who you talk to and when you need to talk to them to gain enough support for legislation.
“You can’t go there and just say, ‘Oh hi, I want to introduce myself,’” he said. “We don’t have that kind of time.”
Smith made reference to a recent forum with his challengers in the upcoming primary, Leroy Comrie and Munir Avery, where he said that he had a “stellar year.”
“With my legal issues, and I don’t ignore them, I still managed to get quite a few things in the budget,” Smith said. “I got legislation passed. Some people think that’s an easy thing. It’s not easy.”
In June, Smith was in court for an alleged corruption scheme to bribe his way onto the mayoral ticket in 2013. A mistrial was declared because of undisclosed and untranslated Yiddish recordings. His trial resumes in January.
When he was asked about the effect his impending trial in January will have on his ability to maintain his seat during an important session, Smith said not much happens during that time in Albany.
“The first two weeks of session, this is not knowing Albany, those are the lightest times for session,” he said. “I’m already working on next year’s budget. My two-week trial is not going to get in the way. We start in June. My opponents, who aren’t even in Albany yet, they don’t even know that process.”
Smith said that the people of Southeast Queens who he has spoken to believe he was treated unfairly. He continued by saying that he is not the only legislator from the area who has been inspected by the government.
“It’s very interesting that every elected official in Southeast Queens has had some kind of investigation,” he said. “I can’t answer why.”
Smith also said that only snippets of his case have been published.
“I’ve heard all my tapes,” he said. “I know what’s on there.”
He said that the idea of him running as a Republican was an outright lie.
“What I said was I would be running as a Democrat and trying to get the Republican line” Smith said. “Everybody wrote the story, Malcolm Smith was going to run; he was going to change his party, he was going to be a Republican. That wasn’t true.”
Smith said that his “claim to fame” is working well with everybody in Albany from all party lines and that is what has allowed him to be successful as a politician.
“The reason why I accelerated so fast in Albany wasn’t because everybody just loved Malcolm,” he said. “It was because I worked so well with people.”
He also noted the Rev. Floyd Flake’s endorsement as a tipping point for his campaign along with his own reputation in the community and the endorsement of DC 37.
He said that the community will support him for his track record and because they do not believe everything that is written about Smith’s corruption charges.
“The people of Southeast Queens are very smart,” he said. “They know how to read between the lines, they know how to read and understand what is going on. At the end of the day, I’ve worked very hard for that community all my life and still do.”
Reach Jordan Gibbons at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @jgibbons2.