ALBANY—The chairman of the state G.O.P. is charting a course forward for his party, looking to younger members and focusing more on conservative principles. He's also assuming, contrary to what Majority Leader Dean Skelos has said, that his party will no longer control the State Senate in January.
"I met with [Majority Leader] Dean Skelos, I don't know what's been offered," said Chairman Joseph Mondello after meeting with county party chairmen this afternoon. He was referring to the gang of three dissident senators who have not yet committed to supporting State Senator Malcolm Smith as majority leader. There were hopes that they could be pulled into the Republican fold to continue that party's hold on the chamber.
Mondello continued: "I don't know where dissatisfaction lies with these Democrats and what doesn't. I don't know. I've been around a long time and I've seen people go from one party to another, and in my experience as most parties go, most people who have defected have gone to a party that they thought was moving on top. It's a little bit unusual for people who have just won to move in the opposite direction. Look, this could happen tomorrow and I'll look like a jerk. But I don't care: I think it's remote. I think people don't act that way. But you know hope always springs eternal, we've had the Senate Majority, the Democrats have everything now. The comptroller. The speaker of the Assembly. They've got the governorship, they've got it all already. Isn't this a party where we believe in checks and balances? And we believe that we should have both parties active? What do you want to do, put us out of existence?
"We're in a position now where I think, listen, they've got nobody else to blame. Whatever happens now, they're not going to be able to just pour it on the Republican party. They will try. They'll find a way to try. But in reality we all know if we have half a brain that they are making the decisions, they are in the majority.
"My advice to him would be to make plans for whatever eventuality occurs. Obviously it's easier to make the plans if these fellows do decide to become Republicans or whatever, and we do decide to keep the majority, that's an easy transition. That's not something we have to speak much about. But if they don't, I think we have to make plans to get everybody used to and relegated to the fact that we will be going into the minority and I think we have to have a new mentality in terms of not being losers, but being in a position to think that we have one more shot to get these people before redistricting, which takes place in two years. And then if we lose then we're going to be in real trouble. I would say that I think there are weaknesses in the Democratic front that we can go after in the next two years, and I think we need to concentrate on that now."
Skelos has said that he expects to be re-elected majority leader in January. The senator's press office is preparing a response to what Mondello said.
(And yes, despite criticism, Mondello said he remains the party chairman. "Well I'm here, and I've got a term, and I'm not going anywhere. I'm a tough kid from Brooklyn, and I don't go down too easy," he said.)