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Sen. John Flanagan, once NY's top Republican, won't seek reelection

New York State Sen. John Flanagan is seen

New York State Sen. John Flanagan is seen on June 22, 2016. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

ALBANY — Sen. John Flanagan, who, as State Senate leader from 2015-18 was the most powerful Republican in New York, said Wednesday he won't run for reelection in November.

"It is a with a heavy but extremely proud heart that I announce today that I will not be seeking re-election to the New York State Senate," Flanagan (R-East Northport) said in a statement. "The wide array of emotions I am experiencing in making this decision are balanced by knowing that I am making the best decision for me and for my family."

Flanagan, 59, has been a state legislator for 34 years. He first was elected to the state Assembly in 1986, to a seat vacated by the death of his father. He was elected to the Senate in 2002 and became majority leader in 2015, succeeding longtime Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who was ousted after being indicted on corruption charges. Skelos later was convicted.

For a while, Flanagan was the state's top Republican, point man on negotiating the state budget and all legislation flowing through Albany.

But he fell into minority leader status when the 2018 Democratic wave swept the Republicans out of Senate power after they had controlled the Senate for most of a half-century. With Democrats now firmly in control in the chamber, 40-21, nine incumbent Republicans have said they won't run for re-election this fall.

"Having been elected to the New York State Assembly at age 25 I never would have envisioned the extraordinary opportunities that have come my way over the last thirty-four 34 years," he said. "The timing of this announcement is not particularly ideal, but I am making it now because of the constraints of the political calendar that guides our elections. Our great State is clearly in a time of crisis and now more than ever we need leaders to guide our public policy as true representatives of our taxpayers and constituents."

The Republican was known for fighting for funds for Long Island schools, tougher crime laws and less red tape and taxes imposed on businesses. He twice sought treatment for alcohol dependency during his term as GOP leader.

Flanagan intends to finish out his term, meaning there won't be an immediate skirmish to replace him as Senate minority leader, a GOP official said. That would occur after the 2020 elections.

It could also mean that, for the first time since 2008, the top Senate Republican won't be a Long Islander.  Among the Republicans immediately mentioned as potential successors as minority leader were Sens. Patrick Gallivan (R-Elma), Robert Ortt (R-North Tonawanda) and Fred Akshar (R-Binghamton).

Among the names immediately mentioned as potential candidates to run for Flanagan's Senate seat were Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) and Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta.

"I'm certainly considering it," Fitzpatrick said Wednesday, adding that he's been more focused on helping constituents impacted by the coronavirus pandemic than electoral politics.

"If Mike Fitzpatrick doesn't want it , I would be interested," Trotta said.

 Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) applauded Flanagan's "family legacy of public service."

 "John ascended to the become the most powerful Republican in the entire state of New York and a tireless advocate for his constituents and for all Long Islanders," Boyle said in a statement. "We owe him a great debt of gratitude."

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