Thank God it’s Friday, especially for the New York State Senate Republican conference. Monday, majority leader Dean Skelos was arrested for extortion. He turned himself in along with his son Adam, The Senate leader is accused of extorting payments from companies for Adam. Five days later, we have a pretty well defined list of who you can trust in the GOP Senate.
It's a list the politicians made for us themselves. They always do.
In politics, a scandal-driven leadership change helps voters understand who works for them and who works for the power structure. The first elected leaders to speak up are taking a risk - if they end up lonely in dissent and the scandal-plagued leader prevails, they will be punished. In many cases, their political career can take a serious hit - just ask Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder.
Cagey political players wait it out; they don't express support nor declare outright it's time for a change. These tend to be experienced pols who have a well developed sense of timing or just loyalty to the perp.
On the other hand, some are just cowards.
Then you have the political players who go down with the ship. They usually owe their careers to the troubled leader, or they are in trouble themselves and don't want the leader to sing to authorities about them. Either way, in that brief fold in time when the first headcount is taken, the forever loyal types can be marked in the problem column.
Wednesday, 16 Republican senators signed a letter of support for Skelos – scratch them from the list of the trusted. If they’re still backing Skelos at this point, they’re part of the problem. Several actually attended a fundraiser for Skelos in Manhattan Thursday night, including Cathy Young of Jamestown, Kemp Hannon, Jack Martins, Carl Marcellino and Michael Venditto of Long Island, and Martin Golden of Brooklyn.
Don't trust any one of them; they're in this game for the wrong reasons.
Many in the other half of the 32-member GOP conference are still silent, playing safe. Some of them are veterans who have worked alongside Skelos for years. They're loyal enough to stay quiet, but not foolish enough to stand with him. Many or all might vote to dethrone Skelos on Monday.
But eight GOP Senators stood up this week and called for Skelos to resign as leader: Rob Ortt of North Tonawanda, George Amedore of the Capital region, John Bonacic of the Hudson Valley, Rich Funke of the Finger Lakes, Elizabeth Little of the North Country, Kathy Marchione of the Capital region, Patricia Ritchie of the North Country, Susan Serino of the Hudson Valley.
If your Republican Senator isn't on that list, you really should contact them today.
Ortt, a freshman legislator who fought in Afghanistan, "has declared his intent next week to either join with Democratic efforts to get a motion on the Senate floor to oust Skelos or to propose one of his own," according to the Buffalo News. That's the Nuclear Option. And that's leadership.
These Bold Eight are the real leaders of reform in Albany, the ones who stood up under fire and did the right thing. These are the Republican Senators you know you can trust. Others, not so much.
Another Senator or two may stand up over the weekend and make it the Bold Nine or Ten, but draw that bright line Sunday night: jumping on the bandwagon Monday as Skelos goes down doesn't count as trusted leadership.
Regardless, on Monday Skelos' bold GOP detractors will ally with Democrats and pursue the Nuclear Option. Together, they'll rid Republicans of our anvil of corruption: Dean Skelos. But today we already know who to trust, and for that we can thank the Senators themselves.