ALBANY — Assemblyman Will Barclay on Tuesday was unanimously elected leader of the New York State Assembly Republicans.
The nine-term Pulaski lawmaker was chosen by a vote of his peers held at the state capitol. Legislators and political leaders are gathered in Albany this week for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state of the state address scheduled for Wednesday.
“We struggle in upstate New York to have our issues heard and now I’ll be the only upstate leader in the state,” Barclay told The Palladium-Times shortly after his election. “I plan on being a loud voice for the issues that affect us — high cost of living, high taxes and people leaving the state.”
Barclay previously served as ranking Republican on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and led the floor debate on behalf of the GOP during 2019 budget negotiations.
“I am enormously proud of the work the Assembly minority conference has done to advocate on behalf of the people of this great state, and tremendously humbled to have the support of my colleagues,” Barclay said. “As we start a new year, the members of our conference will help ensure that every corner of our state is a better place for every New Yorker. I am honored and excited to have their confidence and to work alongside them as minority leader.”
The roster of Assembly Democrats more than doubles that of Republicans in the 150-member legislative body, and in 2019 also took control of the majority in the state Senate. Combined with Cuomo, Democrats for the past year have had total control of the lawmaking process in Albany.
Barclay said the upcoming legislative session would be “challenging.”
“We are firmly committed to putting our state back on the right track, and promoting measures that are fair and protect constituents in every community,” said Barclay. “One year of one-party rule has proven to be both costly and dangerous. We need an immediate course correction and we are eager to get started.”
Asked for one issue he would like to hear Cuomo address in Wednesday’s speech, Barclay hit on one of the hottest topics across the state.
“I’d like for [Cuomo] to come out and say he’s going to suspend the ill-conceived bail reform for a year and look at what we can do to revise it,” Barclay said.
Born to one of the most prominent upstate political families, Barclay grew up in northern Oswego County and attended St. Lawrence University and Syracuse University’s School of Law. His father, H. Douglas Barclay, represented the region in the state Senate for two decades and served as ambassador to El Savador.
Barclay’s ascension to minority leader follows the resignation of Assemblyman Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, from the leadership role after Kolb’s New Year’s Eve arrest for drunk driving.
Oswego County Legislature Chairman James Weatherup, R-Central Square, said he was “pretty excited” to have Barclay stepping into a leadership role, noting it could only be a positive for the county.
“I believe (Barclay) to be a fair, honest and dedicated representative for our area,” Weatherup said, calling Barclay an “effective legislator” despite being in the minority. “We look forward to working with him and helping him in anyway we can, and I’m sure he looks forward to helping us in anyway he can.”