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Senate GOP to 'evaluate' leadership after Flanagan returns

ALBANY — Senate Republicans on Wednesday indicated they will reassess their leadership structure once Sen. John Flanagan, their current leader, returns from alcoholism rehab.

Flanagan (R-East Northport) disclosed last week that he is in a 30-day, in-patient setting for alcohol-abuse treatment. This is the second time Flanagan has sought treatment, though the first wasn’t an in-patient setting. Flanagan is missing the first weeks of the 2019 legislative session.

Deputy Minority Leader Joe Griffo (R-Rome), the temporary leader of the GOP conference, said he expects Flanagan to return to Albany before the end of January.  

Asked about Flanagan’s status, Griffo said he will “return as leader of this conference,” but he signaled the situation will be reassessed.

“Together as a conference, we will evaluate our future,” Griffo told reporters on the opening day of the 2019 session.

The leadership discussion “has to happen,” said another Republican who requested anonymity.

Flanagan has been the Senate Republican leader since May 2015, taking over after then-Sen. Dean Skelos was indicted (and later convicted) on public corruption charges. Under Flanagan, the GOP held on to its narrow 32-31 majority in the 2016 elections and he remained Senate majority leader and the most powerful Republican in New York.

But in 2018, Democrats rode anger about President Donald Trump and a high turnout to flip eight seats and take a commanding majority in the state Senate.

Immediately after the Election Day drubbing, some Republicans called for Flanagan’s ouster and said it was time for an upstate leader. But following a lengthy closed-door meeting at the Capitol, Flanagan prevailed in a 14-9 vote over Sen. Cathy Young (R-Olean), although with a new title that reflected the GOP’s lost status: Minority leader.

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