John Flanagan, the leader of the Republicans in the New York State Senate, has announced this afternoon that he will not seek reelection to his Senate seat. The announcement comes after filing deadlines to run in the Republican Party primary this year have passed, which enables local party chairmen to handpick a nominee for November’s general election ballot.
Flanagan had been widely criticized for failing to mount a viable strategy to retake control of the Senate chamber. If the Republicans fail to retake the chamber this year, the Democrats will control the redistricting process in 2021 — and it can be expected that Democrat Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will draw the opposition party out of any relevance in the State.
Flanagan was a suspect choice of the Republican Senate caucus — which is often accused of corruption by their own party’s footsoldiers. The caucus had an overwhelming majority of members elected from Upstate New York, so on the issue of geographic representation alone it would have been reasonable to expect the caucus to have elected Senator Cathy Young, from Olean.
But Western New York’s own Senators Patrick Gallivan and Chris Jacobs — widely seen as transactional figures — betrayed the prospect of a Senate Leader from Western New York, voting instead for Flanagan. Their only explanation was that “some people didn’t like Cathy.”
Days after his election to the leadership post, Flanagan announced that he would be taking a months-long medical leave to be treated for alcoholism.
Republican Party footsoldiers are finding it increasingly suspect that Flanagan’s election could have been orchestrated without the presence of bribes, and have been calling for an investigation into the caucus’ leadership vote. They suspect that cash payments may have been made in the period running up to the vote. The allegations have not been investigated.
Flanagan released this statement:
For almost thirty-four years I have enjoyed the privilege, honor and distinction of serving as an elected official in the New York State Legislature. The opportunity to serve the public for virtually all of my adult life has enriched every aspect of my life, and so it is a with a heavy but extremely proud heart that I announce today that I will not be seeking re-election to the New York State Senate. The wide array of emotions I am experiencing in making this decision are balanced by knowing that I am making the best decision for me and for my family.
My career has spanned over three decades with sixteen years of service and eight terms in the New York State assembly and eighteen years and nine terms in the New York State Senate. I have met some of the finest and most dedicated people in my life throughout this time, and it reminds me of why New York State is so special – because of its people, both in and out of government. It is still my fervent belief that New York is the Empire State and will continue to be so for many, many years to come.
The timing of this announcement is not particularly ideal, but I am making it now because of the constraints of the political calendar that guides our elections. Our great State is clearly in a time of crisis and now more than ever we need leaders to guide our public policy as true representatives of our taxpayers and constituents. I fully intend to apply the same diligence and work ethic as the Leader of our Republican Conference as I have since I was first elected Leader in 2015. We have recruited top-tier candidates in races all across the State, and ensured our Conference has the right messaging to succeed. I look forward to continuing to be part of that process as our Conference navigates delicate and challenging budget issues and finishing our legislative session. Our residents and my constituents deserve no less.
Having been elected to the New York State Assembly at age twenty-five I never would have envisioned the extraordinary opportunities that have come my way over the last thirty-four years. The gift and privilege of being elected by my colleagues to be the Senate Majority Leader is an honor I will always cherish, and I recognize that with that position comes an immense responsibility to work for the betterment of all New Yorkers. It is a fact that continues to be the cornerstone of all my thinking and actions as the Leader of the Republican Conference in the Senate today. Working closely with my Republican Colleagues, we have advocated for vital local issues and passionately distinguished ourselves as principled lawmakers who care very deeply about public service and the people we represent.
I thank my family, my friends, my colleagues and the people of the great State of New York for always supporting me and for giving me again the privilege and the opportunity of a lifetime.