Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan has been a tireless fighter for his district and Long Island, and we’ll need him to keep fighting for us whether his party maintains the majority or not. The benefits of the East Northport Republican’s deep knowledge, political experience and local loyalty are invaluable.
Flanagan, 57, is seeking his ninth term after serving in the Assembly for 16 years. He has been majority leader since 2015, winning a fierce intraparty contest to keep the gavel on the Island after his predecessor as majority leader, Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre, was indicted on federal corruption charges. Whether Flanagan remains leader likely depends on how many seats the GOP wins on Long Island.
Earlier in his Senate tenure, Flanagan chaired the Education Committee, and that remains a focus. His efforts to restore funding to Long Island school districts in the face of the 2008 recession and pressure to divert funding to New York City schools were laudable and successful.
At the same time, he has been one of the state’s strongest voices for accountability and rigor in the classroom, pushing standards and evaluation methods that will assure students are career- and college-ready and that teachers get the job done. But he also has advocated for private and parochial school vouchers and tax credits that aren’t structured to help the communities and students who need it most. He needs to evolve on this, and on his opposition to forcing yeshivas in New York City to meet reasonable educational standards.
Flanagan also has fought to get Long Island its share of economic development funding. He’s supported keeping the crucial property tax cap intact and making it permanent, a fight that will be renewed next year. And he’s worked with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to stymie wild spending plans in the Assembly.
East Northport Democrat Kathleen Bradbury Cleary, 51, has an impressive grasp of the issues for a newcomer to politics, and she has a passion to make government more workable and less partisan. She is a horticulturist and previously was a contract manager for major corporations. She supports strengthening abortion rights in New York, increasing access to voting, and charging tolls to drive in lower Manhattan at rush hour to relieve congestion and help fund mass transit. She has fine ideas of the type Flanagan and his conference should be far more open to. She just doesn’t have enough experience to equal the clout Flanagan brings to fighting for Long Island’s needs.
Whether or not Republicans hold the chamber, Flanagan will be needed to fight for our region in the battle for state funding and the needs of local voters. But he could do so far more effectively if, as leader of his conference, he could advance a bold, ambitious and attractive agenda that shows how Republicans plan to address the state’s problems and leverage its strengths.
Newsday endorses Flanagan. — The editorial board