The second-ranking Senate Republican is standing behind Majority Leader Dean Skelos as support for the Nassau County Republican continues to erode.
Senate Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, explained in a phone interview Friday why he signed onto a joint statement earlier this week supporting Skelos, who was charged by federal prosecutors Monday for his part in an alleged scheme to use his official job to enrich his son.
Libous said he is remaining “loyal” to the majority leader, who kept Libous in the No. 2 role when the Binghamton Republican was charged last year with lying to the FBI. Libous’ trial is slated to begin in July.
“I like to keep reminding people: In America, you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty,” Libous said. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. He stood behind me when I had my problem, and I’m standing behind him. It’s the right thing to do.”
Libous, 62, is in Florida recovering from a post-back-surgery infection that is expected to keep him from returning to New York for the coming weeks. He has been battling cancer that he’s said is “terminal.”
His absence complicates efforts by some to try and force Skelos out, considering Libous is one of 33 senators who sit with the GOP. With 32 votes needed to install a new majority leader, that means Skelos would likely have to agree to cast his vote for someone other than himself.
Late Wednesday, the Senate Republicans’ press office issued a joint statement signed by 16 senators who caucus with the Republicans — not including Skelos — who “strongly” supported Skelos continuing as leader. That means 16 Senate Republicans didn’t sign on to the statement, including at least seven who have called on him to step down.
Libous said he is “being supportive.”
“I’m a loyal person,” he said. “(Skelos) was behind me 100 percent when I had my trouble, and I think he deserves the right to have an opportunity here.”