Published: Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tom Wrobleski, Staten Island Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — GOP Assemblywoman-elect Nicole Malliotakis got the “rock star” treatment in Albany this week, thanks to her victory over Janele Hyer-Spencer, the Democratic incumbent.

Ms. Malliotakis was in the state capital Monday and yesterday to meet with her soon-to-be colleagues in the GOP conference, including Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb. “I’m eager to get to work,” Ms. Malliotakis, 30, said in a telephone interview.

Assemblyman Lou Tobacco (R-South Shore), who squired Ms. Malliotakis around the Capitol, said the incoming lawmaker was being treated “like a rock star” by fellow Republicans because she took down a sitting Dem in a high-profile campaign in the East Shore district.

“People from all over the state were following that race,” said Tobacco. “It was like people already knew her.”

Said Ms. Malliotakis, “It was very exciting to meet everybody. They were very welcoming.”

She said she has yet to speak with Ms. Hyer-Spencer, who has been lambasted for not calling to congratulate Ms. Malliotakis on her victory.

Tobacco said that wins posted by Ms. Malliotakis and other Republicans had sent a charge through the GOP conference and fostered a sense of optimism about the upcoming legislative session.

“There’s an electric feeling here, a pride,” said Tobacco, who was first elected in 2007. “It’s something that I haven’t felt since I was elected. It’s very upbeat.”

Ms. Malliotakis will go to Albany at a potentially history-making time for Assembly Republicans, who are usually treated as less than an afterthought by Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Democratic majority.

But Republicans, including Ms. Malliotakis, took control of eight previously Democratic seats this year, one shy of the number needed to deprive Silver and the Democrats of their two-thirds “super majority.”

With two Assembly races still too close to call, the GOP is positioned to get that ninth seat. That would mean that the Dems would have to bargain for Republican votes to override gubernatorial vetoes and for other procedural moves that the Dems have been able to do by mere fiat in the past.

That could change how business gets done in dysfunctional Albany.

“It is a very good year to be coming in as a new legislator,” said Ms. Malliotakis.

It’s the first time since 1994 that the GOP has flipped this many Assembly seats, and could be the party’s biggest haul in history.

“It sends a message that people do want a two-party system,” said Ms. Malliotakis.

Ms. Malliotakis will be sworn in with the rest of the Assembly on Jan. 4. She will be one of 17 new GOP Assembly members, a number that includes rookies who kept seats already held by Republicans.

On Monday, Ms. Malliotakis cast her vote to keep Kolb on as minority leader.

“He’s been very pro-active and vocal about the reform agenda,” she said.

Ms. Malliotakis said she will return to Albany next month for formal orientation sessions with the rest of the incoming Assembly class. She expects she will learn about her committee and office assignments at that time.

Ms. Malliotakis said she has requested to serve on the transportation, aging and small business committees.

“Those are the three that best reflect the concerns of my constituents and the needs of the district,” Ms. Malliotakis said.