New York State Assembly member Keith Wright (D-70) has a slew of options if he decides to seek higher political office, uptown politicos said, whether that’s running for Congress, becoming the New York County clerk, or speaker of the State Assembly.
The 59-year-old Wright has been in the State Assembly since 1992, and has long been rumored as a possible successor to Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) in 2016. He is also the chair of the Manhattan Democratic Party, and a fixture in Harlem politics.
Wright may be waiting to become speaker of the State Assembly—former Gov. David Paterson said in an Oct. 17 Gotham Gazette article, “He is in line for other opportunities – I think he’d do very well as Speaker.”
But a New York Post article published the same day quoted sources close to Wright saying he was considering leaving politics altogether and becoming the New York County clerk.
Community Board 9 member Daniel Marks Cohen said that if the Democrats recapture Congress, running for federal office might become more attractive to Wright.
“He’s got a great leadership position in Albany right now,” Cohen said, citing his position as chair of the Committee on Housing. “That would be a lot to give up to be in the minority in Congress.”
Neither Wright nor his staff responded to multiple requests for an interview.
If he decides to run, Wright would likely face tough competition in a rapidly changing 13th Congressional District. Still, two-time challenger State Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D-31), armed with a new Hispanic majority in the district, came within 2 and 4 percent of unseating Rangel in the 2012 and 2014 Democratic primaries, respectively.
Rangel’s impending retirement after 46 years in Congress could lead to a crowded field for his seat in 2016. Other rumored potential candidates include Espaillat; State Sen. Bill Perkins (D-30); the Rev. Michael Walrond, who also challenged Rangel in the 2014 Democratic primary; and former City Council member Robert Jackson.
“If Rangel does retire … it creates this kind of flux that hasn’t existed in a long time,” political strategist Richard Fife said, adding that Wright should consider seizing the opportunity to run for an open congressional seat.
“Wright could be a strong candidate because he’s built a record, and people know that,” Fife added.
“I think he would love to be in Congress for a lot of reasons,” Curtis Arluck, a district leader of the Broadway Democrats Club, said of Wright. “But it would be a difficult race to win against Sen. Espaillat.”
By Aaron Fisher