The last time a Western New Yorker held a position of power in the state Senate, Nelson Rockefeller was governor, GOP lawmakers had control of the state Assembly and the Vietnam War was raging.
It's been a half-century since Early Brydges led the state Senate as its temporary president. Since then, Republicans have elected either Long Islanders like Ralph Marino, Dean Skelos or John Flanagan to lead them. When it wasn't a Long Islander, it was upstaters like Warren Anderson of the Southern Tier and Joe Bruno of the Capital Region.
What You Need To Know
- It's been nearly 50 years since a Western New Yorker held a leadership position in the New York State Senate
- Two WNY senators are now battling for the minority leader spot
- The balance of Republican power is slowly moving away from the New York City suburbs
Bruno was the last upstater to lead the GOP conference when he left office 12 years ago.
That's likely to change this month as two Western New York senators vie for the minority leader post: Pat Gallivan and Robert Ortt.
Both Gallivan and Ortt are locking in votes ahead of the leadership vote, which will take place remotely on a Zoom conference call as Flanagan resigns on June 28 to take a job with Northwell Health on Long Island.
That a Western New Yorker will hold the job is a reminder that the balance of GOP power is subtly shifting west of Rochester and away from what had been a traditional stronghold for the party: the New York City suburbs. Nick Langworthy, the Republican chairman elected last year, is a Western New Yorker, replacing Manhattan's Ed Cox.
Indeed, whoever takes the minority leader job is taking a post that can be a relatively thankless one. Being in the political wilderness in Albany is not fun and often involves watching the opposition easily roll over you and your colleagues.
Still, it's a position that can provide a platform to present an alternative vision and, if you gain enough seats, be a majority leader in waiting.
"I believe it’s time we gave an Upstate representative the opportunity to lead the Republican Conference in the New York State Senate, because right now, it’s clear we have one voice from one political affiliation from one region of the state controlling all levers of power in state government," said Sen. Jim Tedisco, who is unaligned in the leadership vote. "We need a strong Upstate voice to bring a more regional and holistic approach and greater checks and balances to Albany."