New York State’s Republican Party is facing an existential crisis, having lost control of the State Senate chamber last year, the party’s last bastion of power in Albany. If the party is unable to retake the chamber next year, then the Democrats could redraw the party out of existence in the 2021 redistricting process.
The Democrats now hold 40 seats in the chamber and the Republicans hold 22. Another seat is empty, recently vacated by Olean’s Cathy Young, which is heavily Republican enrolled. To retake control, the Republicans would need to pick up nine seats.
But Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan has been on a medical leave of absence since the beginning of the current legislative session. Longtime party operatives worry that the leadership void in the chamber, and more broadly in Albany, is undermining the party’s ability to architect and disseminate an opposition message.
All but four members of the Republican caucus reside in Western and Upstate New York. Rank and file members of the party are increasingly resentful that the region doesn’t command the party’s leadership posts, and even more upset that local representatives haven’t been more forceful in challenging Flannigan for the post.
As Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy seeks the State Chairmanship, local party activists have been privately prodding Senator Patrick Gallivan, who has served in the chamber since 2010, to seek the chamber’s leadership post. They postulate that a Western New York-based leadership team would more aggressively message and brand the opposition party in both chambers.
Gallivan formerly served as Erie County Sheriff and has been floated as a contender for 27th congressional seat currently occupied by Rep. Chris Collins. Collins is expected to face several primary challengers next year (including Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, Senator Rob Ortt, Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, and Senator Chris Jacobs).