BATTLE IN THE SENATE: BRUNO VS. MARINO PATAKI REPORTEDLY SUPPORTS CHALLENGE TO THE MAJORITY LEADER

Associated Press
Section: CAPITAL REGION,  Page: B2

Date: Thursday, November 24, 1994

ALBANY State Sen. Joseph Bruno made a high-stakes, behind the scenes move Wednesday to oust fellow Republican Ralph Marino from his post as Senate majority leader, several state senators said. One senator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bruno had moved against Marino with the blessing of Governor-elect George Pataki.


The senator said Bruno had been able to round up enough votes to topple Marino from the job, possibly as early as next week. Other senators said they weren't certain if Bruno had succeeded.


There was no immediate comment from Bruno.


``The decision is up to the 36 members of the Senate majority, but if there is a sentiment for change, so be it,'' Pataki, who is vacationing in Florida, said through spokeswoman Zenia Mucha.


A Marino aide said his boss was confident.


``Senator Marino has called a (Republican) conference for next week, the purpose of which is to select the next majority leader,'' Marino spokesman John McArdle said. ``He's confident of being re-elected.''


In the Senate, Republicans are in control 36-25. That means Bruno would need 19 Republican votes to knock Marino out as majority leader.


State Sen. Frank Padavan, a Queens Republican, said he had received a call from Bruno on Wednesday afternoon seeking support. Padavan said he did not give Bruno any commitment.


Padavan said he was surprised by Bruno's move and thought the Senate had been doing well under Marino and would have new success with Pataki in the Executive Mansion.


``It doesn't seem to me like you shoot the general after you've won the war,'' Padavan said.


But relations between Pataki and Marino have been strained.


On Wednesday, Pataki announced creation of a 221-member transition team that included Bruno, a veteran senator from nearby Rensselaer County. Notably absent from the transition team was Marino, a Long Island Republican who had initially tried to block Pataki's nomination for governor. Marino eventually endorsed Pataki, but provided only lukewarm support.


Earlier this year, Pataki's chief patron, Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, had told GOP state senators that Marino would be ousted, according to one published report.


``Marino represents business as usual and it became obvious that to push Pataki's agenda, business as usual wasn't going to work,'' said one senator and longtime supporter of Marino who had switched to Bruno's side. The senator spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity.


Bruno made his move against Marino after Pataki met resistance from the majority leader in an effort to put off any action on legislation to boost public employee pensions. Pataki had asked Tuesday that the bill, being negotiated by Marino and Democratic state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, be scrapped.


The pension bill had been opposed by New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who had crossed party lines to endorse Gov. Mario M. Cuomo's bid for a fourth term. The Giuliani endorsement had infuriated the Pataki camp and relations between the mayor and the governor-elect have been non-existent since Pataki's Nov. 8 win.


Pataki's opposition to the pension bill, which he earlier had said he would support, has been seen as a first step by the governor-elect to heal relations with the mayor. The two are scheduled to meet early next week.


Bruno, 65, was first elected to the Senate in 1976 and chairs the Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business Committee. He and his wife, Barbara, have four children and live in the Brunswick.


Marino, 66, of Oyster Bay, has been the majority leader since January 1989, having been first elected to the Senate in 1968. He and his wife, Ethel, have three children.