The New Dean of the Republican Senate Tries to Keep His Majority Safe, and Maybe Even Make It Grow

During the fall elections, Ed Koch—pushing a plan for nonpartisan redistricting-called Mr. Skelos to pitch him on being a “Hero of Reform.”

Mr. Koch allayed some of his concerns about a previous bill, and Mr. Skelos agreed to sign on.

“He said, ‘Don’t make it public today, let me talk to my caucus,'” Mr. Koch recalled. “He calls me back within the hour: ‘I alerted my caucus and they’re all joining me.'”

It was a departure for Mr. Skelos, who chaired the Senate’s redistricting commission in both 1992 and 2002, and helped engineer the majority over which he presides.

“He directed the redistricting equivalent of the Night of the Long Knives the last time they did this,” said Blair Horner, the legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group. Mr. Horner said it was hard to know exactly how it happened, since the commissions operate in secret, but “at the end of the day, the Senate Republican incumbents were protected and the Senate Democrats got screwed.”

But Mr. Skelos’ official position is that the same mantra Republicans rode to power in 2010—less taxes, less spending, more private jobs—will resonate even more forcefully in 2012.

“When we go through this budget process and they see that we listen to what the public is saying in terms of taxes and spending, we’re going to get reelected and we’re going to grow our majority,” Mr. Skelos said.

Regardless of how the lines are drawn?

“We’re just going to grow our majority,” he said.