It’s hard to stand out in a crowd. It’s hard to be noticed. In order to do that, you really have to be good – not just a little bit better than the people around you, but a lot better. That’s true in any sphere, whether its academics, athletics, journalism or politics.
Think about this: Out of 213* lawmakers in Albany, how many really stand out? That is, how many stand out for truly affirmative reasons? We’re not talking about being brash. Through the years, there have been a number of people who got themselves elected to the legislature and were determined to break through. Think Greg Ball, Ryan Karben or Jay Dinga. These were all individuals with some skills. They were smart. They could speak well. And they were incredibly ambitious. In fact, each envisioned himself being governor or president one day. They worked hard, hustled, and received more than their share of attention, but they just didn’t last.
It takes more than skills and ambition. It also requires patience.
Consider Sen. John J. Flanagan, Jr. In recent days, you’ve noticed him doing interviews on ethics and education. He cuts a good figure on TV, and comes off as thoughtful and reasonable. More than that, he’s articulate in a way that we haven’t seen since… yeah… Spitzer. In this regard, he speaks in not just sentences but paragraphs. Everyone in our little group has been impressed by him. Of course, we’ve been aware of him for a long time, but we never really noticed how good he is – how smart and poised.
We wanted to know more about him and began to ask around. Flanagan was first elected to the state Assembly at just 25. His father had served before him. The elder Flanagan was a towering figure in the house in the ’70s and early ’80s. He was a great debater and influential figure in GOP politics on Long Island and statewide. The father died of a heart attack in 1986.
Flanagan, Jr. served 16 years in the Assembly. In 2002, he missed becoming Minority Leader by one vote. He was then elected to the Senate in 2004, when Jim Lack became a judge. Governor Pataki sought repeatedly to encourage Flanagan to run for statewide office – first as AG and then as Comptroller, but Flanagan had young children at the time and didn’t want to make the run.
Today, in GOP circles, Flanagan is regarded a potential leader should Skelos depart, and also as a possible gubernatorial candidate. There are, however, some unusual knocks on him politically. For example, it’s said that he isn’t particularly good at fund raising. It’s said that he’s too dignified to make cloying calls for contributions. It’s also said that while he’s astute politically, he may value consistency on issues too much. Not a transactional guy, it’s said.
We’re going to be watching Flanagan more closely in the future. To us, he really stands out, not only for his obvious talents, but also because of his perceived flaws.