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The Majority Leader of the New York State Senate is elected by the majority of the members of the New York State Senate. The position usually coincides with the title of Temporary President of the State Senate, who presides over the session of the State Senate if the Lieutenant Governor of New York (who is ex officio President of the State Senate) is absent. The Temporary President of the State Senate becomes Acting Lieutenant Governor for the remainder of the unexpired term in case of a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor. In case of a vacancy in the offices of both the governor and lieutenant governor at the same time, the Temporary President of the State Senate becomes Acting Governor. If the double vacancy occurs until three months before the mid-term state elections, a special election for Governor of New York and Lieutenant Governor is held. If the double vacancy occurs later, the Temporary President of the State Senate acts as governor until the end of the unexpired term. The Temporary President of the State Senate retains both majority leadership and a seat in the State Senate while acting as lieutenant governor or governor.
As of January 2019, Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins is the Senate Majority Leader.
The position of President pro tempore of the New York State Senate was created as a standing office by a constitutional amendment in 1873. The President pro tempore was elected for the duration of the biennial senatorial term which comprised two sessions, the first in an even-numbered year, the other in the following odd-numbered year.
Before this time, a President pro tempore was elected only in case of vacancy (the President pro tem acting as lieutenant governor for the remainder of the term), or if the lieutenant governor was absent. In practice, this new arrangement transferred much power from the lieutenant governor to the President pro tempore, whose political position became comparable to that of the Speaker of the New York State Assembly.
After the impeachment of Governor William Sulzer in October 1913, Lt. Gov. Martin H. Glynn became governor, and President pro tempore Robert F. Wagner became acting lieutenant governor. At the time Wagner – as acting lieutenant governor – was considered to be President of the Senate and it was deemed necessary to elect another member as president pro tempore/Majority Leader, and John F. Murtaugh was chosen.
The precedent of 1913–14 caused some confusion after the death of Lt. Gov. Thomas W. Wallace in 1943. It was unclear if the Majority Leader had to give up his post upon becoming acting lieutenant governor, and if such an acting lieutenant governor became President of the Senate for the remainder of the unexpired term.
There was a lengthy dispute over the leadership of the Senate during June and July 2009. On June 8, 2009, Democrats Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada, Jr., joined the 30 Republican members of the State Senate to attempt to issue a motion to replace current Majority Leader Malcolm Smith with Minority Leader Dean Skelos. Following the precedent of 1913, the temporary presidency and the majority leadership would have been separated again under this scenario. Since the office of Lieutenant Governor fell vacant after Lt. Gov. David Paterson succeeded to the governorship upon Gov. Eliot Spitzer's resignation, the majority leaders (Bruno, Skelos and Smith) have acted as lieutenant governors. The motions put forward on June 8 also sought to select Pedro Espada as Temporary President of the State Senate, which would have installed him as acting lieutenant governor. The Democrats have disputed the legitimacy of the motions put forward on June 8. The New York State Senate has been providing a running update of the legal proceedings since June 11, 2009. The dispute ended July 9, 2009, when Senator Espada announced he would return to the Democratic caucus and take on the position of majority leader, while it was also announced that former majority leader Malcolm Smith had assumed the title of president pro tempore, and John Sampson would serve as Democratic conference leader with the understanding he would assume the presidency at an undetermined future date. Following the 2010 election and the Republican victory in the Senate, Senator Dean Skelos from Long Island served as both Temporary President and Majority Leader, but resigned in May 2015 in the midst of corruption charges.
Traditionally, the positions of acting lieutenant governor and acting governor were considered to be tied to the post of Majority Leader. This means that if the Majority Leader resigns, or is ousted from office, or if the majority changes and a new Majority Leader is chosen, the offices of acting lieutenant governor or acting governor were transferred at the same time to the new Majority Leader.
Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins became Senate Majority Leader in January 2019, the first woman and African-American to do so.
Presidents pro tempore 1874 - 1938
|President pro tem||Party||Took office||Left office||Notes|
|William H. Robertson||Republican||1874||July 23, 1881||resigned his seat during his fourth term to accept appointment as Collector of the Port of New York|
|Dennis McCarthy||Republican||July 23, 1881||December 31, 1881||elected for the remainder of the term|
|vacant||January 3, 1882||December 31, 1882||John C. Jacobs was the candidate of the Democratic majority but, due to the split of the Democrats, no President pro tem was chosen by a senate with 14 regular Democrats, 3 Tammany men and 15 Republicans|
|John C. Jacobs||Democrat||January 11, 1883||December 31, 1883||elected for the remainder of the term|
|Dennis McCarthy||Republican||1884||December 31, 1885||Acting Lieutenant Governor 1885|
|Edmund L. Pitts||Republican||January 4, 1886||December 31, 1887|
|Henry R. Low||Republican||January 1888||December 1, 1888||died in office|
|Jacob Sloat Fassett||Republican||January 1889||August 1, 1891||vacated his seat during his second term when appointed Collector of the Port of New York|
|Jacob A. Cantor||Democratic||January 1892||December 31, 1893||Minority Leader 1888-1891 and 1894–1898|
|Charles T. Saxton||Republican||January 1894||December 31, 1894||vacated his seat when taking office as Lieutenant Governor of New York|
|Edmund O'Connor||Republican||January 1895||December 31, 1895||elected for the remainder of the term|
|Timothy E. Ellsworth||Republican||January 1896||December 31, 1902||three terms (1896–98, 1899–1900, 1901–02)|
|John Raines||Republican||January 1903||December 16, 1909||Acting Lieutenant Governor 1906; died in office during his fourth term|
|Jotham P. Allds||Republican||January 5, 1910||February 23, 1910||elected for the remainder of the term; resigned during bribery investigation, later found guilty by Senate vote|
|George H. Cobb||Republican||March 11, 1910||December 31, 1910||elected for the remainder of the term; Acting Lieutenant Governor 1910|
|Robert F. Wagner||Democratic||January 1911||January 6, 1914||two terms; Acting Lieutenant Governor 1913–1914; Minority Leader 1915-1918|
|John F. Murtaugh||Democratic||January 6, 1914||December 31, 1914||chosen Majority Leader while Acting Lt. Gov. Wagner continued as Temporary President/Acting Lieutenant Governor|
|Elon R. Brown||Republican||January 1915||December 31, 1918||two terms|
|J. Henry Walters||Republican||January 1919||December 31, 1920|
|Clayton R. Lusk||Republican||January 1921||December 31, 1922||Acting Lieutenant Governor 1922; Minority Leader 1923-1924|
|Jimmy Walker||Democratic||January 1923||December 31, 1924||Minority Leader 1919-1922 and 1925|
|John Knight||Republican||January 1925||March 30, 1931||vacated his seat during his fourth term when appointed U.S. Judge for the Western District of NY|
|George R. Fearon||Republican||April 9, 1931||December 31, 1932||elected for the remainder of the term|
|John J. Dunnigan||Democratic||January 4, 1933||December 31, 1938||three terms; Minority Leader 1931-1932 and 1939–1944|
Majority leaders since 1939
|Majority Leader||Party||Took office||Left office||Notes|
|Perley A. Pitcher||Republican||January 3, 1939||February 20, 1939||Minority Leader 1937–1938; died in office|
|Joe R. Hanley||Republican||February 27, 1939||December 31, 1943||elected for the remainder of the term, then re-elected twice; Acting Lieutenant Governor 1942 and 1943; vacated his seat when taking office as Lieutenant Governor of New York|
|Benjamin F. Feinberg||Republican||January 4, 1944||March 30, 1949||elected for the remainder of the term, then re-elected three times; vacated his seat when appointed Chairman of the Public Service Commission|
|Arthur H. Wicks||Republican||March 30, 1949||November 19, 1953||elected for the remainder of the term, then re-elected twice, then resigned; Acting Lieutenant Governor 1953|
|Walter J. Mahoney||Republican||January 6, 1954||December 31, 1964||elected for the remainder of the term, then re-elected five times; Acting Lieutenant Governor 1954|
|Joseph Zaretzki||Democratic||February 3, 1965||December 31, 1965||elected after a month of deadlock; Minority Leader 1957-1964 and 1966–1974|
|Earl W. Brydges||Republican||January, 1966||December 31, 1972||four terms (1966, 1967–68, 1969–70, 1971–72); Minority Leader 1965 |
|Warren M. Anderson||Republican||January, 1973||December 31, 1988||eight terms; longest-serving Majority Leader (16 years); Acting Lieutenant Governor 1973-1974 and 1985–1986|
|Ralph J. Marino||Republican||January, 1989||November 25, 1994||ousted by his party shortly before the end of his third term|
|Joseph Bruno||Republican||November 25, 1994||June 24, 2008||elected for the remainder of the term, then re-elected seven times, then resigned; Acting Lieutenant Governor 2008.|
|Dean Skelos||Republican||June 24, 2008||December 31, 2008||elected for the remainder of the term; Acting Lieutenant Governor 2008.|
|Malcolm Smith||Democratic||January 7, 2009||June 8, 2009||Acting Lieutenant Governor Jan. 7 - June 8, 2009; Minority Leader 2007-2008 and June 8–15, 2009|
|Dean Skelos||Republican||June 8, 2009||June 15, 2009||Skelos was chosen Majority Leader, and Pedro Espada Jr. Temporary President/Acting Lieutenant Governor.|
|Dean Skelos/Malcolm Smith||Disputed||June 15, 2009||July 9, 2009||Pedro Espada Jr. continued as Temporary President/Acting Lieutenant Governor, but after the return of Hiram Monserrate to the Democratic caucus, the Senate was tied, and both leaders claimed to be the Majority Leader during the 2009 New York State Senate leadership crisis.|
|Pedro Espada Jr.||Democratic||July 9, 2009||December 14, 2010||Malcolm Smith was Temporary President since July 9, 2009, and John L. Sampson was Chairman of the Democratic Conference. As sitting Majority Leader, Espada was indicted on six federal counts of embezzlement and theft on Dec. 14, 2010 and was stripped of his leadership position.|
|vacant||December 14, 2010||December 31, 2010||While the office of Majority Leader remained vacant, Malcolm Smith continued as Temporary President, and John L. Sampson as Chairman of the Democratic Conference.|
|Dean Skelos||Republican||January 1, 2011||December 31, 2012|
|Jeffrey Klein/Dean Skelos||Majority Coalition||January 1, 2013||December 31, 2014||The leaders of the Republican and the Independent Democratic conferences would have joint and equal authority over bills that the Senate takes up, committee assignments, appointments, and state budget negotiations. Senator Skelos and Senator Klein also take turns as temporary president of the Senate, a position defined in the State Constitution that is next in the gubernatorial line of succession after the lieutenant governor.|
|Dean Skelos||Republican||January 1, 2015||May 11, 2015||Republicans won back an outright majority in the State Senate. Resigned as Temporary President and Majority Leader on May 11, 2015, due to federal corruption charges.|
|John J. Flanagan||Republican||May 11, 2015||December 31, 2018|
|Andrea Stewart-Cousins||Democratic||January 9, 2019||present||Minority Leader 2013–2019. First woman to hold post.|
- Special elections for Lieutenant Governor were prohibited by a constitutional amendment after the death of Lt. Gov. Thomas W. Wallace and the subsequent special election of Joe R. Hanley. Lieutenant Governors may be elected now only "at the same time of election of a governor."
- This election occurs in the middle of the gubernatorial term, in presidential-election years; regularly the members of the state legislature are elected.
- "Removal Vote Does Not Bar Sulzer From Holding Future Office - Four Acquittal Ballots - High Court Unanimously Finds Sulzer Not Guilty on Remaining Impeachment Counts - Cullen Swears Glynn In - New Governor, In Statement, Promises "Economical, Clean, Orderly" Government - Not To Be A Factionist - Assumes Responsibility for Policy, Since "It Shall Be My Policy" - Wagner Moves Up Also - Now Lieutenant Governor - Frawley or Murtaugh May Be Chosen Senate President Pro Tem" (PDF). New York Times. October 18, 1913. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
- "Issues Are Raised By Wallace Death - Legal and Political Questions Arise in Regard to Naming His Successor - May Not Fill the Place - Republicans Incline to Think It Will Not Be Necessary Until 1946". New York Times. July 18, 1943. p. 30. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
- Hakim, Danny; Peters, Jeremy W. (June 12, 1009). "Judge Gives State Senators Weekend to Negotiate". New York Times. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
- This happened when Joseph Bruno resigned on June 24, 2008, and Dean Skelos was chosen the new Majority Leader.
- This happened on January 7, 2009, when the newly elected Democratic majority chose Malcolm Smith.
- The senators elected in Nov. 1895 served an exceptional three-year term, see Constitution of 1894, Art. III, § 2
- Previous presidents pro tempore (Raines, Cobb) had become Acting Lieutenant Governors while the State Senate was not in session. This time, with the State Senate in session, while Wagner as Acting Lt. Gov. became President of the State Senate, it was deemed necessary to elect another senator to the post of Majority Leader to lead the Democrats on the floor while Wagner presided. in NYT on January 7, 1914
- In 1965 and 1966, the senators served one-year terms. The senatorial districts were redistributed twice (in 1965 and 1966), and new elections were held for the entire State Senate in November 1965.