The top communications strategist for the Senate Republicans -- who cheerily played a "bad cop'' role with some in the Capitol press corps -- surprised many folks this morning with word of his retirement.
John McArdle, who helped mastermind what could be the GOP retaking the Senate if they win two of the three still-contested Senate seats now facing recounts, is leaving the Senate after 29 years.
McArdle, never shy about picking up the phone to give a good yelling to a reporter, goes back to the days of Senate Majority Leader Warren Anderson. Working his way up the GOP ladder, McArdle would go on to serve as communications director for three Senate majority leaders: Ralph Marino, Joseph Bruno and Dean Skelos.
“I have always valued John’s wisdom, advice and support, but mostly I value his friendship,” Sen. Dean Skelos, the Republican leader, said in a statement. “He has truly set the standard for doing a very difficult job and, in doing so, has earned the respect of members from both sides of the aisle and the reporters who cover Albany. John is truly an institution in the Capitol whose presence will be missed. On behalf of all the members of the Senate Republican conference, I thank John for his many years of service and wish him the best of luck.”
McArdle said, “It’s has been an honor and privilege to serve the Senate for so many years and during such interesting times. I have had the good fortune to work for four outstanding majority Leaders and with senators and staff for an institution I truly love. I will cherish the memories and friendships and the opportunities I have had to serve the Senate and this state for the last 30 years.”
McArdle called a short while ago to say the timing of his departure is based, in part, on an early retirement program offered to legislative employees, which is closing to new enrollees next month. Also, he said he feels comfortable leaving now because he is confident the Republicans will re-take the Senate when the voting is all counted in three contested races in Erie, Westchester and Nassau counties.
McArdle rose to become one of the most influential staff members at the Capitol, with a reputation for his fierce defense of Senate Republicans against Democrats in the Legislature and even fellow Republicans, such as former Gov. George Pataki, on everything from policy to raw politics.
McArdle said he will go into consulting and public relations – he is banned from lobbying for two years – and “crisis communications,’’ a field he has known well at the Capitol. He plans to also go into business with Abe Lackman, a former top Senate fiscal staffer who is an Albany lobbyist.
And as the Democrats and Republicans toss rhetorical bombs at each other over the re-count process, the Senate Democratic spokesman called a ceasefire Monday -- if for only the moment -- to note McArdle's departure.
-- Tom Precious