Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, will run for re-election this year.
Kris Thompson, Bruno’s press secretary, said Thursday that Bruno’s name will be on petitions that Republican committee members in Saratoga and Rensselaer counties will start circulating next week in the 43rd Senate District. A formal announcement will come later, Thompson said, and for the moment, “We are focused on government, not politics.”
Bruno, 79, had been ducking questions about whether he would run again, including on Thursday morning, when he said: “Everything is timely in this business.”
Brian Premo, also of Brunswick, who tried to run against Bruno two years ago, is doing better this year in his quest for the Democratic nomination. He was endorsed last week by the Rensselaer County Democratic Committee and Wednesday by the Saratoga County Democratic Committee. The Senate district includes all of Rensselaer County and eastern Saratoga County, including most of Saratoga Springs.
Two years ago, Saratoga Democrats not only declined to endorse Premo but worked with Bruno’s lawyers to knock him off the ballot. The state Board of Elections and a Supreme Court judge found then that Premo could not run as a Democrat because he had only recently switched his enrollment from Republican and had not gone through the correct procedure to receive Democratic Party authorization to run. That issue is now moot since Premo has been a Democrat for long enough that he no longer requires leadership permission to run.
Bruno and Premo could still challenge each other’s petitions, and Premo said Thursday he may do that to Bruno’s. Premo works as an attorney in Albany. He said he plans to make a formal announcement of his candidacy Tuesday in Troy, at the Rensselaer County Democratic headquarters.
Premo said that his past dispute with the Saratoga County Democratic leadership is “an irrelevant nonissue” and that both county committees have now endorsed him unanimously. He said the campaign issues he intends to raise include “legislative dysfunction,” New York’s high taxes and poorly performing schools.
Bruno, too, decries New York’s high taxes. He also takes credit for cutting them, and for providing more state funding for schools, which he says helps control local property taxes.
Speaking at the Rockefeller Institute in Albany on Thursday regarding a proposed constitutional amendment for filling a lieutenant governor vacancy, Bruno said it makes more sense to pass an amendment capping budget increases. That’s the only way to realistically get control of spending, he said.
Bruno has suffered adversity over the past year and a half, including the death of his wife, Bobbi, and an investigation of his private business activities by the FBI. And New York has become a more Democratic state, where Bruno’s Senate majority now hangs by a single seat.
But Bruno has led the Senate for more than 13 years, outlasting rivals including former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who sought to discredit the Senate leader but had to resign in March after being exposed as a client of a prostitution ring.
Saratoga County Democrats also backed Ian McGaughey, a Wilton Town Board member, to run against Assemblyman Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, and Bahram Keramati of Galway, a retired engineer, to run against Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna. They backed three incumbents for re-election: U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-Greenport, who will likely be opposed by Republican Sandy Treadwell; Assemblyman Bob Reilly, D-Colonie, whose likely Republican opponent is John Wasielewski of Halfmoon; and Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari, D-Cohoes.
Spitzer’s resignation led to then Lt. Gov. David Paterson becoming governor, and with no constitutional provision for a new lieutenant governor to be appointed, the post will stay vacant until after the 2010 election. Meanwhile, Bruno is next in line to be governor, and there is no Democratic lieutenant governor to preside over the Senate and potentially break a tie vote. Bruno claimed that in the event of a tie, he would now get a second vote because he is acting lieutenant governor.
The Republican Senate leader noted that he has a good relationship with Paterson, and would not seek to undermine him when he is out of the state, when under the constitution Bruno would be acting governor.
Bruno said the Senate is not going to pass an Assembly bill to amend the constitution by letting the governor appoint a new lieutenant governor in the event of a vacancy. The Assembly bill provides that gubernatorial nominations would be confirmed by the Legislature acting as a whole, which in current circumstances would mean Assembly Democrats would wield all the confirmation power, since they comprise more than half of all legislators.