MICHAEL HILL Associated Press
Section: MAIN,  Page: A1

Date: Saturday, November 26, 1994

ALBANY Republican state Senate Majority Leader Ralph Marino announced Friday that he would resign his powerful post, ceding it to challenger Sen. Joseph L. Bruno.

Marino, who was criticized in state Republican circles for his lukewarm backing of Governor-elect George Pataki during the gubernatorial campaign, said he would support the ascension of Bruno, a 65-year-old Republican from Brunswick. ``I told Senator Bruno that I will do everything I can to assure a smooth transition and work to help him unite the conference behind his leadership,'' Marino said in a prepared statement.

If Bruno is elected Senate majority leader and it appears all but certain now he would become the first state legislative leader from the Capital Region since Schenectady's Oswald D. Heck served as Assembly speaker more than 35 years ago. John McArdle, the chief spokesman for Marino, said the majority leader would have no other comment. The statement did not mention whether Marino, who won re-election this month, would stay in the Senate.

Marino, a 66-year-old Long Island Republican, has been majority leader since 1989. He was first elected to the Senate in 1968.

The Senate majority leader is one of a few key players in state Capitol politics. The majority leader has final say over which legislation is introduced in his house, negotiates the state budget with the governor and Assembly speaker, and doles out coveted Senate committee chairmanships.

The post carries a $30,000 stipend in addition to the regular state lawmaker's salary of $57,500 a year.

Bruno is an ally of the governor-elect, and his placement as majority leader is expected to be a boon to the Pataki administration next year. In a prepared statement, Bruno praised the leadership of the man he had ousted and pledged to work with Pataki on cutting taxes and government.

``I am excited about the future and am confident that the Senate will join with the governor-elect and deliver what the voters want more responsive government,'' Bruno said.

Bruno, a businessman, was first elected to the Senate in 1976 and currently heads the commerce committee. He has used that position to blast Gov. Mario M. Cuomo's fiscal policies and has called for less business regulation.

Pataki had not tried to stop Marino's ouster and had said that if the senators want a change, ``so be it.'' Senate sources close to Bruno, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Pataki's forces were aiding the challenger.

Marino's relations with Pataki have been icy. The bad blood goes back to 1992, when a conservative group, CHANGE-NY, backed Pataki's successful Senate bid at the same time it tried to defeat Marino in a general election.

Senate Republican sources said Marino's strained relations with the governor-elect cost him in the end. In the less than three weeks since Election Day, Bruno was able to line up more than the 19 GOP senators needed to oust Marino. There are 36 Republican senators in the conference.

``I think people wanted to see a situation where we would all be united and working together,'' said Sen. Ronald Stafford of Plattsburgh, Stafford was a key supporter of Marino in the past, but came out Friday for Bruno.

Sen. Thomas Libous of Binghamton said he was supporting Bruno because the Senate majority has a fresh opportunity to work with a Republican governor next year.

``I have a lot of respect for Ralph as an individual. I like him tremendously. But this is a business decision,'' said Libous.

State Sen. Nicholas Spano, another Bruno supporter, said voters made clear on Election Day that they want changes in state government.

Bruno, a native of Glens Falls, is also assistant majority leader of conference operations. He was on the campaign staff of then-Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller in 1966. From 1969 to 1974 he served as special assistant to then-Assembly Speaker Perry B. Duryea. He also served as chairman of the Rensselaer County Republican Party from 1974 to 1977. He is co-founder of Coradian Corp., a communications corporation, and was its chief executive officers from 1959 to 1990. He and his wife, Barbara, have four children.