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Flanagan promises to lead narrow majority across lines

Republican Dean Skelos, left, seen at the Capitol

Republican Dean Skelos, left, seen at the Capitol in Albany on Monday, May 11, 2015, is being replaced as Senate majority leader by John Flanagan (R-Smithtown). Credit: AP / Mike Groll

ALBANY - Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said Monday that he will lead the GOP majority conference across political and geographic divides.

He may have no choice.

The usually cohesive Republican majority that tries to avoid relying on Democratic votes now has just the bare minimum number of votes a 32 a to control legislation. In addition, two Republicans are facing federal charges.

Flanagan is seen by Republicans as having the temperament and ability to work with the five-member Independent Democratic Conference and the rest of the Democrats in the minority conference.

"It's a smooth transition to a leader who can cross lines, if necessary, to do the work of the people of the state," said Sen. William Larkin (R-New Windsor), one of the most senior and respected leaders in the Republican conference.

Sen. Joseph Robach (R-Rochester) noted that unlike many senators, Flanagan knows constituents well outside his district through his years of running hearings as chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

As for Flanagan, he noted that he has traveled extensively to schools statewide as education chairman and plans to continue to travel the state as majority leader.

He also said he adored Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and has appeared with her in her district on common policy interests.

Flanagan also called Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), a gentleman. Flanagan met with the speaker Monday afternoon.

"He's a lot more inclusive, and I think that bodes well," Flanagan said of Heastie.

Heastie has held the top job in his chamber just three months, succeeding longtime Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). Silver was replaced after he was charged with corruption by a federal prosecutor.

That same prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Preet Bahara, charged former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), prompting his resignation from the leadership post and paving the way for Flanagan.

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