Bob Reilly, the voice of the opposition against legalizing MMA in New York, was up for re-election yesterday, and while the race is still too close to call with 2,000+ outstanding absentee ballots still to be counted, Reilly is currently in the lead and will likely win.
So assuming Reilly manages to pull off the victory, what does that mean for MMA legislation in NY? Well, nothing according to veteran MMA journalist/NY resident Jim Genia. Despite his outspoken nature against MMA, Reilly hasn’t been a factor since 2008.
As a member of the Tourism, Arts and Sports Development Committee, Reilly had the juice to derail things in 2008, but when it came time to debate the issue in 2009 and 2010, he got his ass kicked (i.e., out-voted). A Senate coup and a lame-duck governor were the only reasons the legalization bills fizzled these past two years, and thanks to newly-elected governor Andrew Coumo – who took a $75,000 campaign donation from the folks at Zuffa – the smart money is on those stumbling blocks never being encountered again. So when is pro MMA getting legalized here and when is the UFC, Strikeforce, Bellator and ROC coming to Madison Square Garden? Who knows. But what is known that whether it does or does not happen, Bob Reilly’s post as Chief Hater of the Assembly matters not at all. After all, it hasn’t mattered for a while now.
The NY politician who appears to have the most influence now is NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. While he isn’t outspoken on the subject like Reilly is, he’s said to be aligned with Reilly and remains in power after running unopposed. However, BE’s Luke Thomas explains how NY electing a new Governor could turn Silver into a non-issue.
3. While much is made of Reilly’s bulwark status in Albany, he isn’t the real stumbling block. It’s Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. He is the epitome of entrenched political power and without his blessing, little is accomplished legislatively. Silver has no formal position on MMA, but is closely associated with Reilly. Overturning Reilly’s view could help sway Silver, but that’s unlikely. The key is turning or removing him. Speaking of removal…
4. The more positive news is that New York Governer-Elect Andrew Cuomo, who received donations from Zuffa for his campaign, appears to be on a collision course with Silver. It’s too early to tell how that could play out, but if Cuomo is successful in getting rid of Silver, that removes arguably the most serious obstacle to overturning MMA prohibition in the state.
So despite Reilly’s likely re-election, all in all it seems to have been a positive day, or at least not a bad one, for MMA in New York. Time will tell if 2011 is the year NY finally passes MMA legislation, but when it does, it will be all that much sweeter with Bob Reilly still in office watching it go through.
On a side note, Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who Dana White put his promotional muscle behind in recent weeks, also won his bid for re-election.