Western New York senator claims victory in Senate minority leader race
ALBANY – State Senate Republicans picked Sen. Rob Ortt to lead their conference for the remainder of the year, opting for an upstate leader after being led by senators from Long Island for the past 12 years.
Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, Niagara County, was elected Senate minority leader in a private vote by his colleagues Friday afternoon, three days after former leader Sen. John Flanagan announced he would retire from the Senate on June 28.
An Army National Guard veteran in his third term in Albany, Ortt outmaneuvered two other Senate Republicans to line up enough support for the job.
Ortt, who hails from a conservative Republican district, said he is "eager to unite our remarkable conference and work with Republicans from across our great state to fight for our party and our values."
"Hard-working taxpayers, small businesses, and families from all walks of life and every region will have a fierce ally in the Senate Republican Conference," he said in a statement.
Ortt will now lead the Senate GOP at a critical time for the once-strong conference, which ceded the majority to Democrats in 2018 and is dealing with a wave of members declining to seek re-election this fall.
All 63 Senate seats will be on the ballot in November. Democrats currently hold 40 of those seats.
In a Zoom conference with reporters Friday, Ortt said the goal of any minority conference is to retake the majority.
"Whether it is this cycle or in two cycles, that is the goal," he said.
Ortt sealed the vote Friday morning when Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, Erie County, threw his support behind him.
Gallivan had been Ortt's lone remaining challenger after Staten Island Sen. Andrew Lanza ended his bid Thursday night.
"I congratulate Sen. Robert Ortt and look forward to working with him and our colleagues in the Senate minority conference to put New York on a better path," Gallivan said in a statement.
Ortt succeeded longtime Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, Niagara County in 2015 after Maziarz declined to run for re-election the previous year.
His district, the 62nd Senate district, includes all of Niagara and Orleans counties as well as the towns of Sweden and Ogden in Monroe County.
Jon Campbell is a New York state government reporter for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JCAMPBELL1@Gannett.com or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.