A few days after state Sen. John Flanagan, R-2, announced he will resign later this month, state Senate Republicans have a new leader.
State Sen. Rob Ortt, a North Tonawanda Republican who represents the 62nd Senate District, was elected late Friday by the GOP conference to serve as Senate minority leader. He is the first western New Yorker to lead a Senate conference since Earl Brydges, who served as majority leader for seven years in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“I’m eager to unite our remarkable conference and work with Republicans from across our great state to fight for our party and our values,” Ortt said in a statement. “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.”
Senate Republicans held a virtual meeting late Friday afternoon to officially vote to appoint Ortt as their new leader.
“I want to extend my congratulations to Sen. Rob Ortt on his election as minority leader of the New York state Senate,” Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R-120, said in a statement. “I wish him nothing but success as he begins his tenure in this critical role. Rob is a decorated veteran, a tenacious advocate for the people of Western New York and a voice for rational, common-sense policies that help everyday New Yorkers.”
Ortt’s ascension to leading the Senate Republicans was unexpected after Flanagan, 59, will officially retire from the Senate on June 28 to take a lobbying position with Northwell Health, the massive Long Island-based health system that is the state’s largest private employer. The former minority leader announced this spring he would not seek re-election, but was expected to finish the term Dec. 31.
Flanagan served in the state Senate since 2003 and was majority leader from 2015 to 2018.
Ortt immediately threw his hat in the ring last week as a leading contender to succeed Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, together with Sens. Patrick Gallivan, R-59, of western New York; and Andrew Lanza, R-24, of Staten Island. Lanza withdrew from consideration and backed Ortt. Gallivan pulled out of the race Friday morning.
The leadership changes come at an important time for the future of New York and the GOP’s state leadership, Barclay said.
“As the state begins to recover from the crushing impacts of COVID-19, we also must reinforce our efforts to defeat a dangerous liberal agenda that costs too much, achieves too little and continues to drive away thousands of families and businesses every year,” the Assembly minority leader said. “I share the respect and confidence in Rob that his senate colleagues demonstrated today and look forward to working collaboratively on measures that put New York on a path to prosperity.”
Ortt, a military veteran, was elected mayor of North Tonawanda in 2009. He served as mayor until his election to the state Senate in 2014.
He joined the state Army National Guard in 2001 after 9/11 and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2008. His professional background includes working as a personal financial analyst.
His public service career began in 2007 when he was appointed by the North Tonawanda Common Council to serve as the city treasurer. He was elected to a full four-year term later that year.
New York Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy highlighted Ortt’s experience in a statement Friday.
“Rob is a fighter who knows how to win tough battles, and that’s exactly what’s needed as we fight to win back control of the state Senate and put an end to [Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s] dictatorial reign and the extreme left policies that are destroying this state,” Langworthy said.
The Tribune News Service contributed to this report.