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New York Legislature

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, left, speaks to members in January 2017 as Sen. John DeFrancisco watches.

Three upstate Republicans will receive key assignments within the state Senate Republican conference, but one of their colleagues has been removed from two posts. 

Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan announced Friday that state Sen. Joe Griffo, a Rome Republican, will serve as deputy minority leader. Griffo will lead floor operations for the Senate GOP. 

"No one knows more than Joe Griffo about the ins-and-outs of what happens on the floor of the state Senate," Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, said in a statement. "I am confident he will pursue every avenue and work every angle to allow us to be a vocal minority and an aggressive voice for taxpayers and their families." 

Flanagan also named state Sen. Jim Seward as ranking member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. Seward, R-Milford, was elected in 1986 and chaired the Senate Insurance Committee.  

He will fill the seat that would likely have gone to state Sen. Cathy Young, who chaired the Senate Finance Committee since 2015. With Republicans shifting to the minority, Young was in line to become ranking member of the committee, which plays a role in crafting the state budget. 

But Young, a Southern Tier Republican, challenged Flanagan for minority leader. Flanagan won that race in November, and will continue as the Senate GOP leader. 

Flanagan not only removed Young from the top Senate Finance Committee post, he also named a new chair of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee. The committee, which is tasked with electing Republicans to the state Senate, will now be led by state Sen. Fred Akshar. 

Akshar, R-Binghamton, is considered a rising star in GOP circles. Flanagan's office noted that Akshar will replace Young "effective immediately." 

"Fred Akshar is an enthusiastic Republican voice with an extraordinary work ethic," Flanagan said. "He will help us identify and pick up seats in 2020, and put the plan together to once again deliver Republicans a majority in the state Senate. I have full confidence in his ability to help us compete and win." 

In a statement, Young said she is proud of her tenure as chair of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Republican Campaign Committee. She highlighted her past work serving as western region chair of Gov. George Pataki's re-election campaign in 2002 and assisting GOP Assembly members with their campaigns. 

"While I respected his right to do so, Leader John Flanagan substantially changed the organizational structure and operations of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee in 2018," Young said. She didn't elaborate on the changes. 

She added, "I wish Senator Akshar good luck in his new role, and extend sincere congratulations to Senators Seward and Griffo." 

When the leadership election was held in November, Akshar, Griffo and Seward supported Flanagan for minority leader. It was reminiscent of 2015, when Flanagan defeated state Sen. John DeFrancisco for majority leader. Some upstate senators, including Seward, supported Flanagan over DeFrancisco in that vote three years ago. 

The Senate GOP will be operating in the minority for the first time in a decade. Democrats won 40 of 63 seats on election night, and will have majority control of both houses. 

Despite the change, Flanagan is encouraged by his leadership team. He said the conference will promote its vision to help the middle class, provide quality education and boost job creation. 

"I am thrilled to have them by my side as we begin a new year and a new legislative session," he said. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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