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Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan leaving office this month for private sector

Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan
Dan Clark/WMHT
Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan
Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan
Credit Dan Clark/WMHT
Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan

After five years of leading Republicans in the State Senate — first in the majority, and more recently in the minority — Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan said Tuesday that he’ll leave elected office altogether later this month, creating an opening for a new leader.

Flanagan, R-Suffolk, had already decided not to seek reelection this year, but said Tuesday he’ll fast-track his exit from the Senate later this month to pursue an opportunity in the private sector.

“Today I would like to let you know that effective June 28th, I am formally retiring from the Senate to pursue an opportunity in the private sector,” Flanagan said in a statement.

“I am a lifelong New Yorker, and never more proud of that fact than at this very moment. Despite unprecedented challenges over the last few months, Empire State residents have been profoundly resilient, and I am inspired by their fortitude and optimism.”

Flanagan didn’t provide details on his next move, but the New York Post reported Tuesday that he’d accepted a job as vice president of regional governmental affairs for Northwelll Health.

A lawyer by trade, Flanagan previously left his job at law firm Forchelli Deegan Terrana LLP in 2015 when he was elected to lead the Republican conference in the State Senate.

Flanagan’s rise to power was among the most significant events of the last decade in Albany. He replaced former Sen. Dean Skelos, D-Nassau, in the top position after Skelos was charged by federal prosecutors of using his power in office to arrange a no-show job for his son.

That same year, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks in a referral scheme. He was replaced by current Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx.

While Heastie has continued to lead the majority in his chamber, Flanagan has not.

Republicans lost the majority in the State Senate in the 2018 elections, pushing Flanagan to the position of Senate Minority Leader. But for three years, he was among the most powerful figures in the state, negotiating the state budget and key pieces of legislation each year.

His departure will set off another race, internally, in which Republicans will choose their new leader in the Senate.

As of Tuesday afternoon, two lawmakers had expressed interest: State Sen. Pat Gallivan and State Sen. Rob Ortt. Both Republicans represent areas of Western New York.

Gallivan, in a statement, said his priority would be to take the majority back from Democrats in the State Senate, and shift power from the governor’s office to the Legislature.

“We must take back the legislative authority ceded by the current majority to ensure that all New

Yorkers have a voice in their government. We start by taking back the Senate majority,” Gallivan said.

“I intend to seek the support of my colleagues in the Senate minority conference to serve as their leader as we work to put New York on a better path.”

Dan Clark is host and producer at New York NOW.

Copyright 2020 WXXI News

Dan Clark is the host and producer of New York NOW, a weekly television show focusing on state government produced by WMHT in Albany. Clark has been reporting on New York state government and politics for the last six years, during which time he's worked out of the state Capitol in Albany. Clark reported for the national political fact-checking publication PolitiFact, the Buffalo News, the statewide political television show Capital Tonight, and most recently the New York Law Journal. At the New York Law Journal, Clark has focused on state legal challenges to President Donald Trump, as well as litigation concerning laws enacted by the New York State Legislature. Clark covered the Legislature in each role he's held and is a familiar face to state lawmakers and staff. Clark is a native of Afton, NY in Chenango County. He's lived in Albany with his husband since 2011.