Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic minority leader of the State Senate, and Michael Gianaris, the leader of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, are calling on the majority leader of the Senate to step aside following a slew of federal corruption charges.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara slapped Republican Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, with a six-count criminal complaint, alleging that Mr. Skelos sought to direct companies with business before the state to give business to his son, with the expectation that Mr. Skelos would then treat those companies favorably. Mr. Skelos was charged with extortion, conspiring to commit fraud and soliciting bribes.
Mr. Skelos said he is innocent.
“The reported charges against the Senate Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos are deeply disturbing,” Ms. Stewart-Cousins said. “I cannot imagine him continuing to serve as leader as he deals with the cloud of corruption now effecting the top two Senate Republican leaders.”
She added that there “are many pressing issues that must be addressed during the remainder of the legislative session and the Senate Republican Majority must ensure that this body is not bogged down in scandal.”
Mr. Skelos’ arrest comes less than three months after Mr. Bharara indicted former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges. After initially vowing he would remain in his powerful perch, Mr. Silver eventually resigned. He is now a rank and file assemblyman and his trial is set for November.
Mr. Gianaris said Mr. Skelos should step aside for the “good of our state” and the legislative session, which ends in June. If Mr. Skelos gives up his position, two of the three “men in the room” who negotiate the budget and laws will have stepped down in the span of one session.
“There are too many important issues which remain unresolved, ironically including several long overdue ethics reforms and expiring housing laws. Now is not the time to circle the wagons,” Mr. Gianaris said. “Rather, it is time to set an example that lets our fellow New Yorkers know we get it.”
The Senate Democrats are no stranger to controversy. Three former Democratic majority leaders–Pedro Espada Jr., Malcolm Smith and John Sampson–were all indicted on corruption charges. Mr. Smith and Mr. Espada were found guilty and Mr. Sampson is awaiting trial.
If Mr. Skelos resigns his post, at least three Republicans–John DeFrancisco, Catharine Young and John Flanagan–are expected to jockey for the position.