Senate Republican Swan Song, Smith’s Tears

ALBANY—So it ends.

State Senator Tom Libous put forth a resolution which to re-appoint Dean Skelos as Senate majority leader, saying he has the “skills, temperament, and quality of leadership to move this state forward in the coming year.”

It was defeated by a voice vote. Democrats then elected State Senator Malcolm Smith majority leader with 32 votes, per a deal struck Tuesday evening.

“Objectively, the ayes have it,” State Senator Neil Breslin, who presided over the session, said. There was a thunderous roll of applause.

In his first speech as the chamber’s minority leader — Republicans have held the chamber majority for 43 years–Skelos said:

“Let me be one of the first to congratulate you as a friend and a colleague, of being elected. This has been a year of incredible change, and whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, we should be proud that any racial barriers have come down in this country.”

Smith is the first African-American majority leader and president pro tempore of the State Senate. (Someone told me last night that Skelos’s term in the post was the third shortest in the state.)

Then Skelos cracked a joke. “We could always move to re-consider the resolution — Reverend Diaz?

“We wish you good luck, and we look forward to partnering with you and pledge our support when we feel its appropriate governmentally,” Skelos continued. “We have to heal the wounds and now come together as one body to help this state.”

He then reiterated the position he has taken against tax increases. Then he slipped into something common for majority leaders: asking for more resources and a more egalitarian chamber.

“This is a historic moment,” Skelos conluded. “Let’s seize it on behalf of the 19 million New Yorkers we were elected to serve.”

Then Smith began his remarks, before breaking into tears after thanking his wife. He thanked members of the public, and then his colleagues for all of their hard work.

“To the 32, to the 32, to the 32,” he repeated three times. “History will record, you can assure, that there was 32 people how when no one else thought we could put a plan together, believed.”

Senate Republican Swan Song, Smith’s Tears