Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, R-Glenville, announced Friday he will step down from his leadership position Monday.
Although Tedisco framed his decision as an opportunity to plan his transition to the congressional seat he hasn’t won yet, some Albany politicians say the Assembly Republican Conference wasn’t happy with the leader leaving his post for two months to campaign for Congress, and taking most of his staff with him.
“That’s common knowledge,” said Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari, D-Cohoes, of the minority’s dissatisfaction, adding he is surprised Tedisco didn’t leave his post earlier.
“I think he made the right move,” Canestrari said of Tedisco’s resignation. “All of this happened at a very critical time with the legislative process.”
An Assembly Republican Conference meeting to vote on Tedisco’s replacement is set for Monday afternoon, said Assemblyman Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, who is seeking to become Tedisco’s replacement.
“I’m very confident that I have the sufficient number of votes,” Kolb said by phone Friday. He has been in the Assembly for nine years and is the minority leader pro tempore, the next one in the Assembly GOP hierarchy after Tedisco.
Democrats expressed optimism that Kolb will work well with the majority.
Assemblyman Bob Reilly, D-Colonie, said while Tedisco was very good at saying what he didn’t like, Kolb may be better at actually changing things.
“I think that Brian will focus on really trying to get the views of the minority heard in a positive way, but also helping to influence legislation,” Reilly said.
Tedisco announced Friday he is so confident he will win the 20th Congressional District seat that he is stepping down as minority leader to focus on his transition, although he will retain his Assembly seat.
“As the state Board of Elections prepares to count the thousands of absentee and military votes cast in the special election for the 20th District, I am fully confident that the final tally will be in our campaign’s favor,” he said in a statement.
The Tuesday election in the 10 counties that make up the district produced no clear winner. Tedisco and his Democratic opponent, Scott Murphy, are locked in a dead heat for the seat that opened when Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to the U.S. Senate.
A final tally in the race is likely to take several weeks, until absentee and affidavit ballots are counted.
Tedisco said “I want our conference’s important agenda to keep moving forward,” citing the Democrat-developed state budget that the GOP opposed. “As always, it will be up to the Assembly Republican Conference to stand up, speak out and lead the fight against Albany’s dysfunction.”
Tedisco was first elected to the Assembly in 1982 and was first tapped as minority leader in November 2005. He made a name for himself by fighting Democratic leaders, including speaking out against former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens and calling for Spitzer’s resignation or threatening to impeach him after the governor’s patronage of high-priced prostitutes came to light.
Tedisco’s departure as head of the Republicans in the Assembly is a blow to local GOP leaders, who turned to him as an influential member whenever they wanted to get something done.
“It was very prestigious for us to have the minority leader in Albany hail from Schenectady County,” said Tom Buchanan, chairman of the Schenectady County Republican Committee. “It’s kind of bittersweet that he’s going to become a congressman.”
Buchanan also works as special counsel for the Republican Conference in the Assembly.
But Brian Quail, chairman of the Schenectady County Democratic Committee, said that as a member of the Assembly minority, Tedisco wasn’t able to accomplish all that much for his district.
“There’s no clout issue that the region loses any stature as a result of him not being the minority leader,” Quail said, adding the majority party controls most of the money and legislation.
Schenectady County lost a majority member on each side of the Legislature in recent developments. Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, is now in the minority. And Paul Tonko resigned from the Assembly in 2007, having taken the leadership of the state Energy Research and Development Authority. He was elected to Congress from the 21st Congressional District in November.
“That’s tough,” Quail said of the changes.
Quail also has called for Tedisco’s resignation from his Assembly seat, saying Tedisco is no longer focused on the 110th District.