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GOP senator says he'll submit motion to replace Skelos as majority leader

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) on

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) on Feb. 10, 2014, in Albany. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

ALBANY - Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is facing a critical end to a rocky week as more Republicans call for him to step down amid corruption charges and one of his members promises to try to remove him next week.

“When the Senate returns to session, I will be supporting, with a heavy heart, a motion, or submitting one of my own if required, to replace Senator Skelos as Majority Leader,” Sen. Robert Ortt (R-Lockport) said on his Facebook page.

The Senate Republican blocked an attempt by Democrats on Wednesday in a nasty floor fight to remove Skelos. They may try again as soon as Monday, giving Ortt his chance.

"We will continue to make our point that he must step down or be removed as leader and we will use all necessary means both on and off the floor of the Senate to accomplish that goal," said Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy.

“Senator Skelos has done a lot of good work for New York state,” said Ortt, a newer member of the Republican majority conference. “But, one thing I learned fighting in Afghanistan is that being a leader means doing what's best for the people you serve, not yourself, even if it’s painful or unpopular.”

Ortt is among at least seven Republican senators who now say Skelos should relinquish his powerful post as leader of the Senate. Interests groups including gun-owner groups who criticized Skelos for supporting Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s SAFE Act gun control measure are also massing against Skelos.

Senators are back home now, where they are expected to get an earful from constituents and local newspaper editorial boards.

“I’m sure that when they go back home they’d be hearing what, again, what people around the state are saying, even people in their own conference,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers).

A “consensus” of Republican senators in a closed-door meeting on Monday supported Skelos. But one senator told Newsday that Skelos agreed to step down on his own if his situation was hurting the Republican conference.

“The Senate Conference is bigger than one individual,” Ortt said. “We have critical issues facing us in New York, and we need a leader who can effectively advocate for upstate New York without the cloud surrounding the current Senate leadership.”

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