John DeFrancisco,John Flanagan

Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, left, and Sen. John Flanagan, R-Smithtown, talk in the Senate Chamber at the Capitol on Monday, May 4, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Mike Groll

Three years after beating him in a two-man race to become majority leader, state Sen. John Flanagan is supporting his colleague, state Sen. John DeFrancisco, in the campaign for governor. 

Flangan, R-East Northport, announced his endorsement Tuesday. He is the latest Senate Republican to support DeFrancisco's gubernatorial campaign. 

"John DeFrancisco is a strong, smart and principled leader for New York, and I am confident he possesses the character and the skill set to be an outstanding governor," Flanagan said in a statement. "I am pleased and proud to endorse his candidacy, and urge my fellow Republicans to organize and energize behind him." 

DeFrancisco, R-DeWitt, is one of two Republicans remaining in the race after Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, who had his share of support from GOP leaders across the state, ended his campaign Friday. 

Joel Giambra, a former Erie County executive, is also in the race. Joe Holland, a former aide to ex-Gov. George Pataki, is considering a gubernatorial bid. 

For now, DeFrancisco has the momentum in the race for the Republican nomination. Flanagan's support should boost his campaign. 

The pair have served in the state Senate together since 2003, when Flanagan was sworn in to represent his Long Island district. Flanagan went on to become chair of the Senate Education Committee. DeFrancisco led the powerful Senate Finance Committee. 

After Dean Skelos resigned as majority leader in 2015, DeFrancisco and Flanagan ran for the top spot in the chamber. They had to win over their Republican colleagues to win the seat. 

It was a close race, but Flanagan won. The difference in the contest was the support he received from six upstate senators. 

After becoming majority leader, Flanagan sought to unite the Republican conference. He named DeFrancisco deputy majority leader

Flanagan was briefly mentioned as a possible 2018 gubernatorial candidate, but opted not to enter the race. With DeFrancisco seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, he is supporting his longtime colleague. 

"I have known John DeFrancisco for many years and he has served with distinction in both local government and in the state Senate, where we have worked closely to provide relief for hardworking taxpayers, help businesses create jobs and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers," Flanagan said. "He recognizes what needs to be done to turn this state around. He will make an outstanding governor." 

Republicans will select their nominee as a convention this spring. They hope to avoid a primary to focus on defeating Cuomo, who is seeking a third term as governor.