GREENWICH VILLAGE — Forty minutes into a candidate forum in the basement of Judson Memorial Church, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick was fielding her third question of the night on her loyalty to disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
"Obviously I did not know that Shelly was corrupt," Glick said. "Everybody thought he was too smart to be that stupid. It was a very painful realization that he had betrayed all of us."
Glick is being challenged for her Assembly seat by a Village local, activist-lawyer Arthur Schwartz, after serving in Albany since 1990. At the candidate forum last week hosted by three Village-based Democratic clubs, Schwartz hit Glick on her relationship to Silver early on in his opening statement, highlighting how she "stood with corrupt Speaker Sheldon Silver until the very end."
Silver was convicted on corruption charges in November after a jury found him guilty of using his position at a law firm to rake in millions of dollars in kickbacks.
The charges brought the Assembly's practice of allowing members to earn outside income under scrutiny. Glick has seized on that issue, repeatedly pointing to the fact that she has never held a second job in her 26 years as a state legislator. And at Thursday's forum, she made a connection between attorneys and the practice.
"Almost every one of the people who has been convicted has had outside income and they have mostly been attorneys," she said, eliciting some laughs from the audience.
Schwartz said that he would continue to collect a second salary as an attorney, if elected.
"I have lots of tuition and expenses to pay," said the father of four. "The litigation I do is for women, people of color, people who are fired from their jobs... I’m not going to stop doing that. I would do much more pro bono work but I would have to make more than the $75,000 a year that the legislature pays as the father of two young children and a daughter in law school."
The audience grilled Glick not only on her fealty to Silver even after his arrest, but also after his involvement in covering up sexual harassment in Albany was revealed.
"Is it true that Deborah Glick threatened people on behalf of Shelly Silver?" read one question from the crowd, a reference to a 2013 report that Glick threatened Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.
Malliotakis had been persistently vocal in calling for Silver to step down after a 68-page report detailing Silver ally Assemblyman Vito Lopez's sexual harassment of his female staffers was released.
"Absolutely not," Glick replied at the forum. "One of my colleagues was, I thought, in danger of exposure and was very aggressive in relation to [the] Vito Lopez situation... And I was hoping that this individual would be very careful, would not be, um, unduly exposed because I'm a pro-choice person and I don't make decisions for other people about what they say about themselves."
Glick was also criticized for her support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his race against Zephyr Teachout. (The Village voted for longshot candidate Teachout while Cuomo was under investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara at the same time Sheldon Silver was.)
"Shouldn't we be represented by someone who's endorsed candidates we've supported? Zephyr Teachout, not Andrew Cuomo. Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton. Any Democrat other than Christine Quinn," one questioner asked.
Schwartz, who was Teachout's campaign treasurer and is a lawyer for the Bernie Sanders campaign, said it was "an important question because of what those candidates represent."
"My support for Zephyr and Deborah's support of Andrew Cuomo speaks volumes about what kind of politicians and what kind of leaders we are in the community," Schwartz said. "I think we want someone representing us who believes in taking on the establishment."
Glick framed herself as a pragmatist, someone who is "more for results than rhetoric."
"I believe that I pick people who I think can get the job done," she said. "I think that I've been effective because I've been able to operate in Albany."
And she noted drily, "Since women make up a quarter of the legislature, I'm always interested in being viewed as 'the establishment.'"