118TH ASSEMBLY DISTRICT — State Assemblyman Robert Smullen, R-Johnstown, has risen in the ranks of the Republican Party.
Smullen, entering his third two-year term in office, has been tapped to serve as assistant minority whip, a position tasked with keeping party conference members on message. He previously served as Republican chair of the Assembly review committee,
“That was an elected one, this is an appointed one,” the 118th District Republican said about his previous role. “So it’s a promotion.”
The 54-year-old lawmaker will serve under Minority Whip Karl Brabenec, R-Deerpark, who Smullen calls a “good friend.” The 48-member conference has been led by William Barclay, R-Fulton, since 2020.
Smullen, who represents one of the largest Assembly districts in the state in terms of size, faces an uphill battle for power in the Assembly in the form of a 102-seat Democratic supermajority. The GOP conference hasn’t carried a lower-chamber majority since the pre-Watergate era.
Still, minority leadership positions can leverage influence over bipartisan discussions and move the needle on resourcing regional needs.
“Essentially, the Mohawk Valley from Tribes Hill to Utica, as well as the western half of the Adirondacks, the people’s voice, through me, is moving up,” Smullen said.
Among five committee assignments this year, Smullen will sit on the Ways and Means Committee, a 29-member group tasked with making budget recommendations. He called it “very unusual” to get a seat on the prominent committee this early in his legislative career. He was first elected in 2018.
Smullen is also set to serve as a ranking member for both the Environmental Conservation Committee and Higher Education Committee.
During his tenure, Smullen has been a critic of state spending, gun control and bail reform. With Canajoharie recently added to his district, he hopes to shore up more economic development assistance for redevelopment of the former Beech-Nut plant site.
Before entering state politics, Smullen, a Gloversville High School and Georgetown University graduate, served in the Marine Corps for more than 15 years. In 2018, he handily defeated Patrick Vincent in a primary and Democrat Keith Rubino in the general election race in the 118th Assembly District.
During his first campaign, Smullen was forced to surrender his guns and faced since-settled tax fraud allegations from the town of Niskayuna. In retrospect, Smullen said that detractors were “all about dirty politics” and “smearing me.”
Smullen hasn’t faced another challenger since 2018. He won re-election in November with 39,192 votes.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil
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