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Country’s longest-serving legislator collapses

/ Source: The Associated Press

State Sen. John Marchi was expected to be released from the hospital on Friday after suffering a fainting spell at a Catholic foundation dinner in Manhattan.

Marchi, who represents Staten Island and is the longest-serving legislator in America, collapsed and fell off his chair Thursday evening, said Gerry McLaughlin, his press secretary.

Marchi, 85, was awake when doctors escorted him out of the Grand Ballroom at The Waldorf-Astoria hotel, his press secretary said.

McLaughlin said Marchi's wife was with him at the time and later went home for the night, a sign Marchi was doing well after being admitted to New York Presbyterian Hospital. Marchi, a Republican, has been in office for more than 50 years. He plans to retire this year.

NBC anchor Brian Williams postponed his speech at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner by a few minutes while doctors helped Marchi.

Marchi has been recognized by the National Conference of State Legislatures as the longest-serving legislator — at all levels. He was born on Staten Island and served in the Coast Guard during World War II. He was first elected to the Senate in 1957 and announced in April that he would not seek re-election.

Marchi, an assistant majority leader, has held numerous leadership positions and played a key role in legislation on education, state financial oversight and the closing of the Fresh Kills landfill.

There had been speculation over Marchi's future at the Capitol after he was taken to an Albany hospital last month for bleeding in his esophagus. He also has a history of heart problems, undergoing several procedures over the years.

The annual $1,000-a-plate Smith fundraiser attracts a wide range of people from across the political spectrum. Al Gore and George W. Bush addressed the crowd weeks before the 2000 presidential election.

The dinner raises money for health care programs in New York.