Rep. Hakeem Jeffries joins Gov. Hochul at Bronx rally in support of Hector LaSalle’s NY chief judge nomination

ALBANY — Powerful and prominent Latino leaders and other elected officials joined Gov. Hochul on Saturday to call on the state Senate to support Judge Hector LaSalle’s nomination to be New York’s next top jurist.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Rep. Nydia Velazquez, both New York Democrats, were among the boldface names at a Bronx rally held days ahead of what is sure to be a contentious confirmation hearing in which progressive lawmakers opposed to LaSalle’s appointment to lead the state Court of Appeals could seal his fate.

“Look, I am progressive to my bones... I am standing here before you in support of Hector LaSalle because I truly believe that he is not only the most qualified, but he shares the values that I cherish dearly,” Velazquez said.

LaSalle, who would be the first Latino to lead the state’s sprawling court system if confirmed, has faced heated pushback from progressives, politically-powerful unions, criminal justice advocates and others who have raised issue with a number of his past rulings and argue he is too conservative for the post.

More than a dozen of Hochul’s fellow Dems in the Senate have publicly said they won’t back LaSalle, many of them unhappy with Hochul for choosing a jurist whose past includes working as a prosecutor amid criticisms that state’s highest court already leans conservative.

Hochul said Saturday that LaSalle is “being held to a different standard.”

The governor has stood her ground despite calls for her to rescind her pick, setting the stage for a potential showdown should the judiciary committee vote against advancing LaSalle’s nomination to a floor vote on Wednesday.

The governor and other supporters believe the state Constitution requires the nomination be taken up by the entire 63-seat chamber.

Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), the chairman of the judiciary committee, has said Senate rules dictate that committee votes are the only way to advance a nomination to the floor.

“The Constitution does not require a floor vote because in addition to the Constitution we have Senate rule and certainly it’s within the Senate’s prerogative to decide how to proceed with its own votes, committee and otherwise,” Hoylman said last week.

Democrats hold a 42-member supermajority in the chamber and 14 Dems have said publicly they will not back LaSalle, meaning Hochul would need to rally Republicans to back her pick.

Jeffries called for an “up-or-down” vote by the full chamber on LaSalle, who is currently the presiding justice of the Appellate Division in Brooklyn.

“It’s important for the entire New York state Senate to treat this nomination with the same dignity, decency and respect that every other nomination has received,” he said.

Others said they believe the opposition to LaSalle, a Long Island native of Puerto Rican descent, is a knock against the state’s entire Hispanic community.

Sen. Luis Sepulveda (D-Bronx) appeared to take aim at fellow Latino lawmakers who have voiced opposition to LaSalle.

“I normally don’t make it a practice to call out a colleague of mine,” Sepulveda said. “But this fight is bigger than me. It’s bigger than anyone on this stage. This fight is for the Latino community to get their place at the table.”