Readers Write: GOP power erodes in Albany with Flanagan retirement

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No wonder Republican State Senate Minority leader John Flanagan is smiling in photo to “Northwell recruits top state Senate GOPer” (June 26). He read the political tea leaves earlier this year when announcing he would not run for another term and retired even earlier.  Between Social Security, a very generous state pension and future Northwell Health pension, he wins the retirement trifecta.

The Smithtown legislator will be financially well off to enjoy his golden years as a senior.  As a bonus, he can sleep in.  No need for the previous four-hour commute each way back and forth to Albany.  He joins previous colleagues who made the same choice to leave town.   They include GOP state Sens. Robert Atnonacci, George Amadore, Chris Jacobs, Betty Little, Michael Ranzenhofer, Joseph Roback, Rich Funke, Ken LaVale and James Seward.  This brings the total number of current serving GOP state senators who have thrown in the towel to 11 out of 23.  This is a first in State Senate history.

Under past GOP State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Republicans added a 63rd seat along with favorable gerrymandering. This was designed to keep the Republicans in power and protect incumbents after the 2010 reapportionment. Despite all this, Flanagan will go down in Albany political history as the last GOP State Senate majority leader.

Prior to the 2018 elections, the GOP had lost 10 Senate seats from New York City, the Hudson Valley and upstate.  After the 2018 elections, they lost six of nine Long Island- based seats. Senate Republicans just like their GOP Assembly colleagues, have no power as a minority in their respective chambers.

Many senators in their 70s or 80s delayed retirement to keep GOP Senate leader Flanagan along with his predecessors Dean Skelos and Joseph Bruno in control of the Senate. Most never helped elect GOP Assembly members in overlapping districts to inherit their seats. With no minor league bench, these seats are lost when a Republican senator retires.

Based upon the State Board of Elections’ registration figures as of Feb. 21, 2020, New York is a solid Democratic Party bastion. Out of 11,701,136 active voters, there are 5,900,507 Democrats vs. 2,611,223 Republicans; 2,522,036 unaffiliated; 432,943 Independence Party; 147,606 Conservative; 40,335 Working Family; 24,504 Green; 13,657 Libertarian; 348 Serve America Movement and 8,063 Other registered voters. Democrats outnumber Republicans by 2,792,486 voters. This is one reason why Republican Senate minority leader Flanagan decided to bail.  There are insufficient numbers of Republican voters to support recapturing the nine more seats necessary for him to return as Senate majority leader.

The Republican State Senate campaign committee historically raised millions more then its Democratic Senate counterpart. This changed as Gov. Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Sen, Charles Schumer, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and the state Democratic Party became serious about gaining control of the Senate in 2018. In 2020, they will continue assisting Democratic state Senate candidates in raising millions. Every Democratic Congress member will do likewise.  They are all looking for favorable gerrymandered district lines under reapportionment based upon 2020 census numbers.  This will virtually guarantee another 10 years in office.

Albany’s infamous State Street lobbyists, unions and the usual Pay to Play special interest crowd will come to the state Democratic Party’s Senate campaign committee fund-raisers with checkbook in hand. Besides an overwhelming enrollment advantage, Democrats going into the November general elections have millions more on hand to spend than Republicans.

The year 2018 went down in history as the final nail in the coffin for the last Republican center of power. A once powerful and relevant New York State Republican Party will remain in the minority, no longer offering voters any options.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

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