Joseph Bruno, the powerful former Senate majority leader and ex-Army boxer who went toe-to-toe with disgraced ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer — and twice beat corruption charges himself — died early Wednesday, sources told The Post.
Bruno was 91. He had prostate cancer.
Bruno, who grew up poor as one of eight children in Glens Falls in the Adirondacks region, was majority leader from 1994 through 2008 — spanning the governorships of George Pataki, Spitzer and David Paterson.
Bruno, a Republican, was first elected in 1976 to represent upstate Rensselaer County and Saratoga County in the state Senate.
As majority leader, he was part of the triumvirate — nicknamed Albany’s “three men in a room” along with the governor and Assembly speaker — that negotiated the state budget and legislation behind closed doors.
Bruno championed New York business interests and tax cuts and was a strong ally of fellow three-term Republican Gov. Pataki. And he also maintained close ties to the state’s powerful health care workers union, Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union.
“Libby and I are deeply saddened by the passing of our good friend Joe Bruno. Joe left his mark as the leader of the New York State Senate,” Pataki said.
“For 12 years Joe Bruno was a tremendous partner in Albany as we tackled the tough problems to bring New York back from the brink of ruin. On issue after issue, Joe was an indispensable ally.
“From reforming our criminal justice system to keep violent criminals behind bars to jobs and economic development, Joe was a stalwart leader.”
But Bruno was not shy about publicly airing out his grievances with Pataki or other Republicans as well as Democrats.
Pataki said he respected Bruno’s candor — if and when they disagreed.
“In the best of times and the worst, I could always count on Joe to be forthright with his opinion. And while we didn’t always agree, Joe’s handshake was his bond and together we made a difference.
“Joe will be remembered for his leadership, wit, candor, grit in the face of adversity and his fierce advocacy for the Capital Region.
Bruno’s district included Saratoga Race Track and he was a staunch advocate of the horse racing industry. He was an avid outdoorsman and had a stable of horses on his farm.
While adhering to his beliefs, Bruno was a charismatic figure who could charm and disarm rivals and cultivate personal friendships across the aisle.
But Bruno said there was one political figure he detested — “Steamroller” Eliot Spitzer,
In his memoir “Keep Swinging”, Bruno said he would not be bullied by Spitzer and recounted that he nearly came to blows with the “certifiably crazy” ex-governor.
“While I never claimed to own a crystal ball, I had to be among the first to recognize that Spitzer was unbalanced,” Bruno said.