John Flanagan Replaces Dean Skelos as NY Senate Majority Leader

From left: Outgoing New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his replacement, Sen. John Flanagan (R-EAst Northport).

New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) resigned his leadership post Monday—one week after being arrested with his son on federal corruption charges.

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), who has chaired the senate education committee, replaced Skelos following a debate between GOP senators over whether Flanagan or Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) would take over the leadership role that Skelos has held since 2011.

“I have decided to step down the last thing I would ever want to do is distract from the good work that Senate Republicans have done or make it more difficult to close down this legislative session in a positive and productive way,” Skelos said in a statement. “This scrutiny was more real and more eye-opening than I could have ever imagined when I asked the members of our conference to stand by me last week”

Flanagan praised Skelos upon taking over the leadership while Seklos looked on beside him.

“I am so extraordinarily grateful,” Flanagan, a former state Assemblyman who was elected to the Senate in 2002, said in his first remarks after being sworn in. “We have real work to do, so let’s get to the people’s business.”

Skelos initially tried to hold on to the majority leadership, but his support eroded days after he and his son, Adam, pleaded not guilty to soliciting $200,000 in bribes from two companies in exchange for helping pass favorable legislation and win a $12 million Nassau County contract for storm water treatment.

The arrest of the Skeloses came three months after former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) lost the leadership post he had held for two decades after he was similarly charged and pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges.

Skelos’ predecessor, ex-Sen. Joseph Bruno (R-Troy,) was also convicted of federal corruption charges, but the verdict was overturned on appeal, and he was acquitted during his second trial. Skelos, who took over for Bruno in 2008, lost the leadership post when the Democrats won the majority of the state Senate the following year. His successor, former Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), was convicted of federal corruption charges in February and faces sentencing in July.

Smith and Skelos both disputed who controlled the chamber during the infamous June 2009 coup that resulted in then-Sen. Pedro Espada (D-Bronx) taking the majority leadership post before he was indicted in 2010 on federal corruption charges. He was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.

Skelos had regained control of the Senate majority in 2011 until 2013, when Democrats regained a slim majority, but he formed a power-sharing agreement with Sen. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx), who leads the Independent Democratic Caucus. Skelos and the GOP had regained full control of the chamber in January.

The shakeup comes during the last five weeks of the state legislative session before they adjourn for the summer on June 17. This is when lawmakers historically push for passage of their biggest proposals.

When the news was announced late Monday afternoon in Albany, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) issued a statement congratulating his new counterpart.

“I know Senator Flanagan as a friend and a colleague from his time serving in the Assembly, and I am looking forward to working with him in his new role on an agenda that will truly serve to move our state forward,” he said.

Suffolk Republican chairman John Jay LaValle, who was one of the first party leaders to urge Sen. Skelos to step down from his post pending the resolution of the charges against him, was very pleased with the transition in power that kept another Long Island Republican in the leadership post.

“Senator Flanagan’s elevation to Majority Leader is not just great news for Suffolk County, but for suburban taxpayers throughout New York State,” said LaValle in a statement. “John Flanagan is someone who has protected suburban taxpayers by helping to pass a property tax cap.  As chair of the senate education committee, he fought and won many battles to ensure suburban public schools received their fair share of State Education Aid. I am confident that Senator Flanagan will continue to stand up to liberals who think that suburban taxpayers are New York City’s piggy bank.”

-With Spencer Rumsey