flanaganFrom the Morning Memo:

Senate Republicans plan to push hard to keep the 52nd Senate district in GOP hands — a district that favors them in enrollment, but could nevertheless alter the tenuous balance of power in the chamber.

“We’re going to win that seat,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said on a stop in Cooperstown this week. “Let me be clear on that.”

The special election to replace the once influential and powerful Libous is an early test for Flanagan, a Suffolk County lawmaekr who replaced scandal-scarred Dean Skelos in the chamber in May. Flanagan said he plans to be personally involved in the race.

“We will absolutely hit the ground running,” Flanagan said on Wednesday. “I expect to spend a lot of time in Binghamton. It’s a very important race. It’s critical not only to our conference, but to the people of the state of New York.”

With Libous out of the Senate, there are only 31 Republicans in the chamber (Democratic Sen. John Sampson last week also lost his seat when he was convicted on obstruction of justice charges).

Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder gives them a 32nd member since he conferences with the GOP. But a Democratic victory in the GOP-dominated district could spell trouble for Republicans who are otherwise shut out of statewide offices.

“I know full well what happens because we saw in 2009 and 10 because we had one party rule,” said Republican Sen. James Seward.

Complicating matters for Republicans in the special election was Gov. Andrew Cuomo endorsing Democrat Barbara Fiala less than 24 hours after Libous was found guilty, automatically removing him from the Senate. It’s a risky move: No Democrat has held that Senate district in a century.

“Frankly, I was very surprised,” Flanagan said. “He seemed to get out of the gate before she got out of the gate.”

Fiala launched her campaign on Thursday, while Republicans expect to name a candidate on Monday.

Cuomo says he endorsed Fiala in part because of their shared ties: In addition to being a former Broome County executive, she served in his cabinet during the governor’s first term.

“Barbara Fiala is a quality person,” Cuomo told reporters this week. “I’ve known her for a number of years, she was a member of my administration, she was a commissioner for the department of motor vehicles.”

But the move was eyebrow raising. Cuomo has been criticized by liberals for not supporting Senate Democrats in the past. It remains to be seen if the governor will put financial muscle for Fiala’s bid in addition to his endorsement.