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Majority Leader of the New York State Senate

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Majority leader of the New York State Senate is elected by the majority of the members of the New York State Senate. The position usually coincides with the title of temporary president of the State Senate, who presides over the session of the State Senate if the lieutenant governor of New York (who is ex officio president of the State Senate) is absent. The temporary president of the State Senate becomes acting lieutenant governor for the remainder of the unexpired term in case of a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor, or until a new lieutenant governor is appointed[1] In case of a vacancy in the offices of both the governor and lieutenant governor at the same time, the temporary president of the State Senate becomes Acting Governor. If the double vacancy occurs until three months before the mid-term state elections,[2] a special election for governor of New York and lieutenant governor is held. If the double vacancy occurs later, the Temporary President of the State Senate acts as governor until the end of the unexpired term. The temporary president of the State Senate retains both majority leadership and a seat in the State Senate while acting as lieutenant governor or governor.

As of January 2019, Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins is the Senate majority leader.


The position of president pro tempore of the New York State Senate was created as a standing office by a constitutional amendment in 1873. The President pro tempore was elected for the duration of the biennial senatorial term which comprised two sessions, the first in an even-numbered year, the other in the following odd-numbered year.

Before this time, a President pro tempore was elected only in case of vacancy (the President pro tem acting as lieutenant governor for the remainder of the term), or if the lieutenant governor was absent. In practice, this new arrangement transferred much power from the lieutenant governor to the President pro tempore, whose political position became comparable to that of the Speaker of the New York State Assembly.

After the impeachment of Governor William Sulzer in October 1913, Lt. Gov. Martin H. Glynn became governor, and President pro tempore Robert F. Wagner became acting lieutenant governor. At the time Wagner, as acting lieutenant governor, was considered to be president of the Senate and it was deemed necessary to elect another member as president pro tempore/majority leader,[3] and John F. Murtaugh was chosen.

The precedent of 1913–1914 caused some confusion after the death of Lt. Gov. Thomas W. Wallace in 1943. It was unclear if the Majority Leader had to give up his post upon becoming acting lieutenant governor, and if such an acting lieutenant governor became President of the Senate for the remainder of the unexpired term.[4]

There was a lengthy dispute over the leadership of the Senate during June and July 2009. On June 8, 2009, Democrats Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada Jr., joined the 30 Republican members of the State Senate to attempt to issue a motion to replace current Majority Leader Malcolm Smith with Minority Leader Dean Skelos.[5] Following the precedent of 1913, the temporary presidency and the majority leadership would have been separated again under this scenario. Since the office of lieutenant governor fell vacant after Lieutenant Governor David Paterson ascended to the governorship upon Governor Eliot Spitzer's resignation, the majority leaders (Bruno, Skelos and Smith) have acted as lieutenant governors. The motions put forward on June 8 also sought to select Pedro Espada as Temporary President of the State Senate, which would have installed him as acting lieutenant governor. The Democrats have disputed the legitimacy of the motions put forward on June 8. The New York State Senate has been providing a running update of the legal proceedings since June 11, 2009.[6] The dispute ended July 9, 2009, when Senator Espada announced he would return to the Democratic caucus and take on the position of majority leader, while it was also announced that former majority leader Malcolm Smith had assumed the title of president pro tempore, and John L. Sampson served as Democratic conference leader with the understanding he would assume the presidency at an undetermined future date. Following the 2010 election and the Republican victory in the Senate, Senator Dean Skelos from Long Island served as both temporary president and majority leader, but resigned in May 2015 in the midst of corruption charges.

Traditionally, the positions of acting lieutenant governor and acting governor were considered to be tied to the post of Majority Leader. This means that if the Majority Leader resigns,[7] or is ousted from office, or if the majority changes[8] and a new majority leader is chosen, the offices of acting lieutenant governor or acting governor were transferred at the same time to the new majority leader.

Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins became Senate majority leader in January 2019, the first woman and African-American to do so.[9]

Presidents pro tempore (1874–1938)

President pro tem Party Took office Left office Notes
William H. Robertson Republican 1874 July 23, 1881 resigned his seat during his fourth term to accept appointment as Collector of the Port of New York
Dennis McCarthy Republican July 23, 1881 December 31, 1881 elected for the remainder of the term
vacant January 3, 1882 December 31, 1882 John C. Jacobs was the candidate of the Democratic majority but, due to the split of the Democrats, no President pro tem was chosen by a senate with 14 regular Democrats, 3 Tammany men and 15 Republicans
John C. Jacobs Democrat January 11, 1883 December 31, 1883 elected for the remainder of the term
Dennis McCarthy Republican 1884 December 31, 1885 Acting Lieutenant Governor 1885
Edmund L. Pitts Republican January 4, 1886 December 31, 1887
Henry R. Low Republican January 1888 December 1, 1888 died in office
Jacob Sloat Fassett Republican January 1889 August 1, 1891 vacated his seat during his second term when appointed Collector of the Port of New York
Jacob A. Cantor Democratic January 1892 December 31, 1893 Minority Leader 1888-1891 and 1894–1898
Charles T. Saxton Republican January 1894 December 31, 1894 vacated his seat when taking office as Lieutenant Governor of New York
Edmund O'Connor Republican January 1895 December 31, 1895 elected for the remainder of the term
Timothy E. Ellsworth Republican January 1896 December 31, 1902 three terms (1896–98,[10] 1899–1900, 1901–02)
John Raines Republican January 1903 December 16, 1909 Acting Lieutenant Governor 1906; died in office during his fourth term
Jotham P. Allds Republican January 5, 1910 February 23, 1910 elected for the remainder of the term; resigned during bribery investigation, later found guilty by Senate vote
George H. Cobb Republican March 11, 1910 December 31, 1910 elected for the remainder of the term; Acting Lieutenant Governor 1910
Robert F. Wagner Democratic January 1911 January 6, 1914 two terms; Acting Lieutenant Governor 1913–1914; Minority Leader 1915-1918
John F. Murtaugh Democratic January 6, 1914 December 31, 1914 chosen Majority Leader while Acting Lt. Gov. Wagner continued as Temporary President/Acting Lieutenant Governor[11]
Elon R. Brown Republican January 1915 December 31, 1918 two terms
J. Henry Walters Republican January 1919 December 31, 1920
Clayton R. Lusk Republican January 1921 December 31, 1922 Acting Lieutenant Governor 1922; Minority Leader 1923-1924
Jimmy Walker Democratic January 1923 December 31, 1924 Minority Leader 1919-1922 and 1925
John Knight Republican January 1925 March 30, 1931 vacated his seat during his fourth term when appointed U.S. Judge for the Western District of NY
George R. Fearon Republican April 9, 1931 December 31, 1932 elected for the remainder of the term
John J. Dunnigan Democratic January 4, 1933 December 31, 1938 three terms; Minority Leader 1931-1932 and 1939–1944

Majority leaders since 1939

Majority Leader Party Took office Left office Notes
Perley A. Pitcher Republican January 3, 1939 February 20, 1939 Minority Leader 1937–1938; died in office
Joe R. Hanley Republican February 27, 1939 December 31, 1943 elected for the remainder of the term, then re-elected twice; Acting Lieutenant Governor 1942 and 1943; vacated his seat when taking office as Lieutenant Governor of New York
Benjamin F. Feinberg Republican January 4, 1944 March 30, 1949 elected for the remainder of the term, then re-elected three times; vacated his seat when appointed Chairman of the Public Service Commission
Arthur H. Wicks Republican March 30, 1949 November 19, 1953 elected for the remainder of the term, then re-elected twice, then resigned; Acting Lieutenant Governor 1953
Walter J. Mahoney Republican January 6, 1954 December 31, 1964 elected for the remainder of the term, then re-elected five times; Acting Lieutenant Governor 1954
Joseph Zaretzki Democratic February 3, 1965 December 31, 1965 elected after a month of deadlock; Minority Leader 1957-1964 and 1966–1974
Earl W. Brydges Republican January, 1966 December 31, 1972 four terms (1966, 1967–68, 1969–70, 1971–72); Minority Leader 1965 [12]
Warren M. Anderson Republican January, 1973 December 31, 1988 eight terms; longest-serving Majority Leader (16 years); Acting Lieutenant Governor 1973-1974 and 1985–1986
Ralph J. Marino Republican January, 1989 November 25, 1994 ousted by his party shortly before the end of his third term
Joseph Bruno Republican November 25, 1994 June 24, 2008 elected for the remainder of the term, then re-elected seven times, then resigned; Acting Lieutenant Governor 2008.
Dean Skelos Republican June 24, 2008 December 31, 2008 elected for the remainder of the term; Acting Lieutenant Governor 2008.
Malcolm Smith Democratic January 7, 2009 June 8, 2009 Acting Lieutenant Governor Jan. 7 - June 8, 2009; Minority Leader 2007-2008 and June 8–15, 2009
Dean Skelos Republican June 8, 2009 June 15, 2009 Skelos was chosen Majority Leader, and Pedro Espada Jr. Temporary President/Acting Lieutenant Governor.
Dean Skelos/Malcolm Smith Disputed June 15, 2009 July 9, 2009 Pedro Espada Jr. continued as Temporary President/Acting Lieutenant Governor, but after the return of Hiram Monserrate to the Democratic caucus, the Senate was tied, and both leaders claimed to be the Majority Leader during the 2009 New York State Senate leadership crisis.
Pedro Espada Jr. Democratic July 9, 2009 December 14, 2010 Malcolm Smith was Temporary President since July 9, 2009, and John L. Sampson was Chairman of the Democratic Conference. As sitting Majority Leader, Espada was indicted on six federal counts of embezzlement and theft on Dec. 14, 2010 and was stripped of his leadership position.
vacant December 14, 2010 December 31, 2010 While the office of Majority Leader remained vacant, Malcolm Smith continued as Temporary President, and John L. Sampson as Chairman of the Democratic Conference.
Dean Skelos Republican January 1, 2011 December 31, 2012
Jeffrey Klein/Dean Skelos Majority Coalition January 1, 2013 December 31, 2014 The leaders of the Republican and the Independent Democratic conferences would have joint and equal authority over bills that the Senate takes up, committee assignments, appointments, and state budget negotiations. Senator Skelos and Senator Klein also take turns as temporary president of the Senate, a position defined in the State Constitution that is next in the gubernatorial line of succession after the lieutenant governor.
Dean Skelos Republican January 1, 2015 May 11, 2015 Republicans won back an outright majority in the State Senate. Resigned as Temporary President and Majority Leader on May 11, 2015, due to federal corruption charges.
John J. Flanagan Republican May 11, 2015 December 31, 2018
Andrea Stewart-Cousins Democratic January 9, 2019 present Minority Leader 2013–2019. First woman to hold post.


  1. ^ Special elections for Lieutenant Governor were prohibited by a constitutional amendment after the death of Lt. Gov. Thomas W. Wallace and the subsequent special election of Joe R. Hanley. Lieutenant Governors may be elected now only "at the same time of election of a governor."
  2. ^ This election occurs in the middle of the gubernatorial term, in presidential-election years; regularly the members of the state legislature are elected.
  3. ^ "Removal Vote Does Not Bar Sulzer From Holding Future Office - Four Acquittal Ballots - High Court Unanimously Finds Sulzer Not Guilty on Remaining Impeachment Counts - Cullen Swears Glynn In - New Governor, In Statement, Promises "Economical, Clean, Orderly" Government - Not To Be A Factionist - Assumes Responsibility for Policy, Since "It Shall Be My Policy" - Wagner Moves Up Also - Now Lieutenant Governor - Frawley or Murtaugh May Be Chosen Senate President Pro Tem" (PDF). New York Times. October 18, 1913. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  4. ^ "Issues Are Raised By Wallace Death - Legal and Political Questions Arise in Regard to Naming His Successor - May Not Fill the Place - Republicans Incline to Think It Will Not Be Necessary Until 1946". New York Times. July 18, 1943. p. 30. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  5. ^ Hakim, Danny; Peters, Jeremy W. (June 12, 1009). "Judge Gives State Senators Weekend to Negotiate". New York Times. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  6. ^ "Smith v. Espada - Coverage and Materials [Updated 6.15.09]". NY State Senate. 2009-06-11. Retrieved 2022-07-17.
  7. ^ This happened when Joseph Bruno resigned on June 24, 2008, and Dean Skelos was chosen the new Majority Leader.
  8. ^ This happened on January 7, 2009, when the newly elected Democratic majority chose Malcolm Smith.
  9. ^ "History made: Andrea Stewart-Cousins sworn in as NY Senate leader".
  10. ^ The senators elected in Nov. 1895 served an exceptional three-year term, see Constitution of 1894, Art. III, § 2
  11. ^ Previous presidents pro tempore (Raines, Cobb) had become Acting Lieutenant Governors while the State Senate was not in session. This time, with the State Senate in session, while Wagner as Acting Lt. Gov. became President of the State Senate, it was deemed necessary to elect another senator to the post of Majority Leader to lead the Democrats on the floor while Wagner presided. in NYT on January 7, 1914
  12. ^ In 1965 and 1966, the senators served one-year terms. The senatorial districts were redistributed twice (in 1965 and 1966), and new elections were held for the entire State Senate in November 1965.
This page was last edited on 14 August 2022, at 13:35
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