Posted on Nov 26, 2005

Assemblyman James Tedisco plans to hand his “Pass The Budget” neckties to a colleague now that he's expected to become the next Assembly minority leader.

The Schenectady lawmaker, known for pushing Assembly Democrats to negotiate a budget, declared victory Friday in the brief struggle to replace Charles Nesbitt as the top Republican in the 150-member lower house. Nesbitt, of Albion, is leaving for a Pataki administration job – president of the state Tax Appeals Tribunal.

Tedisco won enough backing to send Assemblyman David Townsend of Oneida County to a distant second place in the quick skirmish to replace Nesbitt, according to Tedisco and Townsend. The minority has 42 members.

“It happened because my colleagues realized the sort of legislator I am,” Tedisco said from his office Friday as he planned for the transition from the three-year Nesbitt reign.

“It's the greatest job in the world,” said Tedisco, adding that he isn't focused anymore on trying to join the Senate Republican majority. “I am going to be able to lead the best, the brightest, the hardest-working members in the New York state Legislature.”

He takes over a conference that has dwindled in size as the Assembly Democrats' majority has swelled in a very blue Empire State.

“I want to turn it a lighter shade of blue,” Tedisco said, pledging to work hard to get Republicans elected in several special elections early next year, to get his current group re-elected and to pick up some seats.

“We've got a gold mine of ideas,” he said.

Townsend had joined Assemblyman Daniel Burling of Batavia and a few others in Burling's failed attempt to unseat Nesbitt earlier this year. Nesbitt's popularity suffered largely because of disenchantment by some members with Nesbitt's chief of staff, Kimberly Galvin, Townsend said.

Tedisco said Galvin won't remain on the minority staff and that he has lined up a new top aide.

Nesbitt edged John Flanagan of Long Island in a 27-26 secret vote among the Assembly Republicans in 2002 to replace John Faso, who stepped down to work on a bid to become state comptroller.

Townsend said he won't blast Tedisco, but complained that the four leaders of the Assembly and Senate are either from the Capital Region or New York City.

“We don't need to fracture the conference, we're in enough trouble now,” Townsend said, adding he is pleased Galvin's departure is part of the shake-up.

He said Tedisco will likely get all the votes on Tuesday when the conference officially chooses its new leader. But Townsend said he is disappointed that “power brokers” got involved in the race and helped Tedisco. He listed U.S. Rep. Tom Reynolds of western New York, who preceded Faso as minority leader, Nesbitt, GOP Chairman Steve Minarik and Gov. George Pataki.

“He's got to prove himself in a year, because you know what – if he doesn't do what he says, we'll be through this again,” Townsend said.

Tedisco said the conference will be tighter than ever under him. He said he intends to employ the same aggression he learned on the hardwood as a Union College basketball player.

“I've got a fire in the belly to do this job that I haven't had since I broke all those records when I was at Union,” Tedisco said. Tedisco, a former teacher and coach, has been in the the Assembly for 24 years, making him its most senior Republican. His annual salary will be $114,000 as minority leader.