Sources close to the Republican caucus tell me that McNall, while the overwhelming choice of his colleagues and Republican Party leaders to continue in his post, was not the only legislator eyeing the job.
Entreaties were made on behalf of two other majority members, but party leaders are said to have shut them down.
“Of the 11 legislators in the majority caucus, Keith solidly had the votes of seven or eight, plus his own,” one party insider told me. “How do you argue with leading the first legislative majority to actually cut not just taxes, but spending too, in no-one-can-remember-how-many years?”
McNall also benefits from what that same insider called “the Gentleman Thing.” When Republicans drafted McNall to succeed aggressive partisan battler Glenn Aronow, one thing that impressed many about the former Lockport school board president was a certain coolness under pressure. As my source put it, “You could call Keith an a__hole to his face, and he’d just smile and tell you he’s sorry you feel that way. He might put your name on a list, mind you, but he would never lash out. That’s not his style. He keeps his word, too, which is kind of a big deal in politics.”
Bradt and Burmaster, who continue in their roles as majority leader and legislative vice chairman, meanwhile, faced no serious contenders seeking their jobs.
“Chairman of the legislature is the big enchilada,” my Republican source explained over coffee. “Majority leader is a lot of work and no rewards, other than a $500 stipend, and vice chairman is like vice-anything. You’re perpetually a bridesmaid.”
This is a marked departure from a year ago for Bradt. At the time, several Republican Party insiders told me that they, and even some of Bradt’s colleagues, didn’t believe he was up to the job of succeeding long-serving Majority Leader Rick Updegrove of Lockport.
“Rick had a management style that worked. He got the GOP’s agenda through, he fought when he needed to, but mostly he kept the majority caucus itself together,” the Republican leader I spoke with said. “There was a lot of concern out there that Randy Bradt — a guy who had only been elected to the legislature, or even to public office, two years before, was ready to be majority leader. The biggest thing he’d done is get into a public pissing contest with Dennis Virtuoso over pension padding. There was a whole Greek chorus warning against electing him majority leader a year ago.”
Now, though, that chorus has gone silent.
“The legislature passed a great budget, the legislature got favorable headlines for addressing issues important to voters like the opioid crisis, gun rights, things like that. The committee chairmen, guys like John Syracuse at Public Works, they were allowed to run their committees and make real policy decisions. And a team that a year ago was starting to pull apart, with Rick Updegrove leaving, really came back together.”
One other surprising aspect of Bradt’s leadership has been a degree of rapprochement with Niagara Falls’ Democratic minority to pass big-ticket items that the two parties can agree on, like an effort to build a replacement for the defunct Niagara Falls Conference Center.
“Rick Updegrove got a lot done, and was a success by any measure,” my source reminded me. “But he was very deliberate. If Rick was old Peyton Manning at the end of his football career, Randy Bradt is a young Jim Kelly in the days of the K-Gun Offense. And it seems to be working.”
The leadership trio will start off 2017 with some modest agenda items, according to Bradt, who expects to roll out some bigger initiatives later in the spring.