Saratoga County

Bruno endorses McDonald to replace him in state Senate

Outgoing state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, endorsed Assemblyman Roy McDonald t

Outgoing state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, endorsed Assemblyman Roy McDonald this morning to take over his 43rd Senate District seat when he retires at the end of the year.

Bruno announced Monday he will not seek re-election in November and indicated at a news conference this morning that he will step down today as majority leader.

McDonald, who lives in the town of Saratoga, is expected to have the support of the Saratoga County Republican Committee. Rensselaer County Republican Chairman Jack Casey said he, too, is following Bruno’s lead and supporting McDonald, even though Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino had expressed interest in the Republican nomination.

Casey, a lawyer, also works as parliamentarian for the state Senate.

Jimino said this afternoon she is considering circulating petitions but has made no final decision.

Sen. Dean Skelos of Long Island was expected to be elected leader of the Republicans’ tenuous majority in the Senate today, according to two Republicans briefed on the succession deal struck Monday night after Bruno announced his retirement.

Under the agreement, Skelos’ closest rival, Sen. Thomas Libous of Broome County, will be deputy majority leader, according to the two Republicans, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been officially announced.

Skelos, 60, has been in the Senate since 1985 and is steeped in the ways of power Albany, including the authority of strong majority leaders to determine what bills even get to the floor for debate. His expected election in a closed party conference would mean the Senate majority leader, the Assembly speaker, the Senate minority leader, the governor, comptroller and attorney general will all be from New York City or its suburbs.

Bruno, 79, has held the leader’s job since 1995.

Skelos refused comment this morning.

“I think Sen. Bruno made his decision based on wanting to get on with other things in his life,” Libous said today. “We’re all focused in coming back in the majority (after elections) and I think we will pick up a seat or two. My interest is in the Senate majority.”

The agreement for Libous to step aside in favor of Skelos was made Monday night by senior senators to avoid an internal fight that could jeopardize the chance for the Republicans to keep their 32-30 advantage in the chamber. Republican senators said Bruno simply had enough after a yearlong fight with former Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a two-year FBI investigation, and, most of all, the death of his wife in January. They had been married 57 years.

“I felt he was suffering, the loss of his wife and few other things,” said Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna. “He’s my best friend and we came into the Senate together.”

Farley and other senators said the change, while sad and surprising, will help re-energize the Senate Republican conference, which faces an increasing threat in the increasingly Democratic state.

The change in guard will also likely mean the millions of dollars in state funding and projects Bruno steered to his Albany area district will now go to Long Island if Skelos and the GOP keep the majority.

“It’s time for a change,” a sometimes teary eyed Bruno told reporters this morning. “It’s time for me in my life to step back and enjoy my family … I’m satisfied.”

Bruno said the FBI investigation played no role in his decision. He insists he has never been accused of a crime and won’t be, and the federal probe will end without action against him.

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