MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) - The newly chosen state Senate majority leader was described Monday as someone with politics in his DNA, and early reaction to his selection was met with cautious optimism.
John Flanagan is the namesake of a former state Assemblyman from Long Island who served from 1972 to 1986. The younger Flanagan served 16 years in the Assembly before being elected in 2002 to the Senate, where he has easily won re-election every two years in a district representing a portion of northeastern Suffolk County.
He is the second consecutive Long Islander to serve as majority leader, replacing Dean Skelos, of Rockville Centre, who resigned from the post Monday under pressure following his arrest with his son last week on federal corruption charges.
Lawrence Levy, of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, said Long Island “dodged a big bullet” in keeping the majority leader post in the region.
“The suburbs have far more needs than most people realize - growing poverty, deteriorating infrastructure, lack of affordable housing and other problems,” Levy said. “Flanagan will make sure the region doesn’t lose out to stereotypes of prosperity that no longer are true.”
Under Skelos, the Senate Republicans were known as a disciplined, organized faction that avoided the internal fights more common with the Democrats. Fordham University political scientist Christina Greer said Flanagan must work to bridge the upstate-downstate gap to continue that tradition.
“The upstate-downstate divide is real,” she said.
Flanagan has served as chairman of the Senate Education Committee and was a supporter of a 2 percent cap on local property taxes to limit the cost of financing schools statewide.
Levy, who noted the lawmaker has “politics in his DNA,” said: “Flanagan rose to prominence on education issues at a time when they became important throughout the state.”
Environmentalist Adrienne Esposito, who made an unsuccessful bid for a state Senate seat running as a Democrat in a Long Island district near Flanagan’s, said the Republican “has always treated us with an open door and a willing ear.”
The executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment added, “We are hopeful he will continue that policy in his new position. We are hopeful that on issues across the board he will work to make New York better.”
Flanagan graduated in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in economics from the College of William and Mary and earned a law degree at Touro Law School in 1990. The East Northport resident is married to the former Lisa Perez, and they have three children.
Associated Press writer David Klepper contributed to this report from Albany.
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