Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bruno Out; Skelos In?

After 14 years of leading the state Senate, Majority Leader Joe Bruno announced yesterday that he wont' seek reelection in November. The baton will most likely be handed to Senator Dean Skelos of Long Island, also the Deputy Majority Leader (as of June 24 at 1:30 p.m.)

(It's worth noting that Skelos has a Long Island park named for him, like many of his colleagues. Though it's hardly, "The Joe," the $14 million, 4,500-seat stadium named for the present majority leader.)

This news doesn't comes as a complete surprise -- there were signs pointing toward retirement at least two years ago when Danny Hakim of the Times wrote, "one can envision a time in the not-so-distant future when Mr. Skelos, now 58, will be the state's top Republican," under the headline, "Long Island Senator May Be G.O.P. Leader in Waiting."

In February Hakim also pointed out the ranks of sexagenarian members of the GOP Senate: 15 of the 32 members will be at least 65 by November. Senator Bruno, 79, like seven of his GOP colleagues, is at least 75 years of age.

Speculation about Bruno's retirement spiked last month when the he didn't say outright that he was running again in an interview with Marc Humbert for the NYS School Boards Association's newspaper. However, soon after Liz Benjamin of the Daily News reported that Bruno was distributing petitions to volunteers to get on the ballot. (We'll save the discussion about the state's byzantine ballot access rules for another occasion.)

At present, it's unclear at present if Bruno will actually serve out his remaining term. Even if he were to resign immediately, leaving the GOP with a 31-30 advantage, it might not make a difference given that session is already at an end. On the other hand, Governor Paterson is likely to call a special session later this year to wield to budget-cutting ax, among other issues.

What does the Bruno's decision mean for balance of the Senate, which currently stands at 32 Republicans and 30 Democrats, come November? Fred Dicker of the Post writes today: "[it] will create chaos in Republican ranks and unsettle Democratic Gov. Paterson."

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