ALBANY — Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Long Islander who has clashed with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in recent weeks, is considering a Republican run for governor in 2018, according to three Republicans who spoke to Flanagan about the bid.
“Yes, I’ve heard him say that,” one Republican said.
“I think a lot of people are talking about him,” another prominent Republican said. “He’s the right age, the right demographic, has been successful in retaining the Senate majority and certainly has the respect statewide and not just as Senate majority leader.”
Flanagan, through a spokesman, wouldn’t discuss the issue.
“Senator Flanagan has been a member of the Assembly and Senate for three decades and considers it an honor and privilege to now serve as Senate majority leader,” Flanagan spokesman Scott Reif said. “We just started our legislative session last week and all he is focused on is doing the people’s business.”
A Cuomo spokesman had no comment.
Flanagan, 55, of East Northport, has been the State Senate’s majority leader since 2015, following the arrest of former Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who later was convicted of federal corruption charges. Flanagan has served in the Senate since 2002. He is the son of former Assemb. John Flanagan, who served in the Assembly from 1972 to 1986.
Flanagan has traveled the state extensively when he was the Senate Education Committee chairman and has a strong voter and fundraising base on Long Island. As a Republican he could attract the upstate support as well, but his vote for Cuomo’s SAFE Act gun control measure could hurt him among more conservative voters.
Flanagan also would face opposition from the left. His Senate has blocked Cuomo’s attempts to expand abortion rights to protect late-term abortions, as well as efforts to make sure federal protections would continue if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal nationwide.
Flanagan joins a field of Republicans testing their polling power and ability to raise campaign contributions for what would be an expensive run against Cuomo, a Democrat who remains popular after two terms and has more than $20 million in his campaign account.
Flanagan’s interest could further fray relations this legislative session with Cuomo.
Cuomo derailed a pay raise for legislators in December that outraged lawmakers. Flanagan criticized Cuomo for moving his State of the State speech this week out of Albany, and he has refused to attend any of Cuomo’s six separate events to present the speech throughout the state.
Republicans are counting on a weariness of Cuomo after two terms, as well as any damage to his reputation brought as a former top aide and confidant is being investigated by the U.S. attorney’s office in a corruption case involving some of Cuomo’s high-profile economic development projects.
Other Republicans considering runs include Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who lost to Cuomo in 2014; Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro; and Harry Wilson, a former GOP candidate for state comptroller and a business consultant.
The 2010 Republican nominee, Buffalo developer Carl Paladino, has said he also is interested. But Paladino, the New York point man for President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign, is under widespread criticism for his racially insensitive descriptions of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. Paladino has said he was joking.