New York Senate Republicans picked John Flanagan as majority leader after ousting Dean Skelos, who was arrested on charges that he used his power over real-estate laws to enrich his son.
Lawmakers chose Flanagan after Skelos stepped down under pressure during a closed-door meeting Monday in Albany, Flanagan said. Skelos, 67, of Long Island, had led the party in the Senate since 2008.
“We come out of this unified, and we are ready to do the people’s business,” Flanagan told reporters after the meeting. He will be formally voted in as majority leader Monday, he said.
Republicans originally supported Skelos after his May 4 arrest until calls for him to step down began mounting from party leaders and editorial boards, including Newsday on Long Island, his hometown newspaper.
The battle for a replacement exposed a divide between upstate lawmakers, who favored Senator John DeFrancisco of Syracuse, and the nine members from New York City suburbs on Long Island, who wanted Flanagan, from Suffolk County.
Flanagan, 54, was first elected in 2002 and leads the Education Committee. In that role, he was central in negotiating a deal over policies proposed by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo that boosted the role that evaluations play in teachers’ ability to get tenure and made it easier to fire educators.
Skelos, who will remain in the legislature, said he supports the leadership change.
“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 an e-mailed statement.
The resignation is the second forced by corruption allegations this year. On Feb. 2, Sheldon Silver stepped down as Assembly speaker, a post he held more than 20 years. The Manhattan Democrat was accused of running two kickback schemes netting almost $4 million. He says he’ll be exonerated.
The Skelos and Silver cases underscore the difficulty faced by Cuomo, a former attorney general who vowed to clean up Albany’s notorious corruption when he took office in 2011. His promise came after a decade in which Eliot Spitzer resigned as governor in a prostitution scandal and a comptroller was caught taking kickbacks for pension investments. Dozens of rank-and-file members also have been arrested, including three in a span of five weeks in 2013.
Skelos and his son, Adam, 32, were charged with running a scheme over five years. Prosecutors said that Skelos pressured developers and an environmental-technology company to get Adam Skelos jobs in exchange for favorable treatment in the legislature.
Dean and Adam Skelos have said they’re innocent.