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Source: John Flanagan gathering support to succeed Dean Skelos

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) speaks to

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) speaks to Long Island Rail Road union workers and supporters during a rally at the Massapequa LIRR station Saturday, June 21, 2014. Credit: Barry Sloan

State Sen. John Flanagan has begun to solidify support to succeed Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican source said Saturday.

"The counting is ongoing, but the Flanagan people are very confident they have more than the required number to take the leadership post," the source said.

Flanagan (R-East Northport) and state Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) have been quietly battling to rally votes among the 33-member Republican Senate conference after Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) was arrested Monday on federal corruption charges. DeFrancisco supporters had said Friday he was positioned to be the next Senate leader, but others said the "tide shifted" later that day.

Skelos hasn't yet agreed to step down from his leadership post but could do so officially Monday when legislators return to the State Capitol for their weekly session. Although Republican senators initially said they supported Skelos, that confidence has rapidly eroded. Seven upstate GOP senators have called for him to step aside, and one, state Sen. Robert Ortt (R-Lockport), has said he would introduce a motion to call for a vote on Skelos, majority leader since 2011, if he doesn't step down.

On Wednesday, Democrats unsuccessfully tried to force a no-confidence vote. Though it failed, it ramped up pressure on rank-and-file Republicans, who in increasing numbers began to abandon Skelos.

Federal prosecutors charged Skelos, 67, and his son, Adam, 32, with extortion, soliciting bribes and conspiracy. They alleged that Skelos used the power of his office to force an environmental company, Arizona-based AbTech, and a major real estate developer, Glenwood Management of New Hyde Park -- a big GOP campaign contributor -- to hire Adam as a consultant and send title insurance work his way. The senator compelled the companies to pay Adam $200,000 since 2011, investigators alleged. They said Dean Skelos, in return, helped AbTech win a $12 million contract with Nassau County for storm-water treatment and represented real estate interests in major legislation.

Skelos has said he is innocent and that the criminal complaint lodged against him is "nothing more than a news release."

Adam Skelos' attorney has said his client also is not guilty.

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