On Friday, January 4, State Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) announced that he would miss the start of the 2019 legislative session to complete a “thorough rehabilitation and recovery program” for his dependency on alcohol. Leader Flanagan had previously sought help for alcoholism in 2017. In Leader Flanagan’s absence, Sen. Joe Griffo (R-Rome) will assume leadership responsibilities for the Senate Republican Conference.
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms offers Leader Flanagan our best wishes, and we hope and pray that he will overcome his addiction. However, we are dubious about whether it is wise for Leader Flanagan—or anyone else facing a similar situation—to lead a legislative conference. Just last month, Leader Flanagan fought off a challenge from Sen. Cathy Young (R-Olean), who sought to replace him as Senate Republican Leader. The New York Daily News reports that shortly after being re-elected Senate Republican Leader, Leader Flanagan became inaccessible to his Republican colleagues without making them aware of his decision to enter treatment. The Leader’s unavailability reportedly created challenges during the Republicans’ transition to minority party status. While we applaud Leader Flanagan for seeking help, we would respectfully encourage him to step down from his leadership position if holding that position compromises his own health or interferes with the orderly operations of his Conference.