ALBANY — Brian Kolb resigned as Assembly GOP leader Friday night, three days after he was charged with driving while intoxicated.
Kolb, 67, made the announcement one day after a CNHI report indicated he was facing a new probe from the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics for possible misuse of state resources in connection with the involvement of a state vehicle in the incident.
Authorities said Kolb damaged the 2018 GMC Acadia SUV by driving it into a ditch while he was drunk in his hometown, Canandaigua, on New Year's Eve.
Kolb's arrest had threatened to become a distraction for GOP lawmakers at a time when they have been gearing up to attack a new bail law favored by Democrats and push for stronger penalties for lawbreakers.
Kolb will remain in his legislative seat, though it was not immediately clear if he will seek re-election later this year.
"I will not allow my own personal challenges to distract from the goals, message and mission of the Assembly Minority Conference," Kolb said in a prepared statement.
His demise as one of Albany's four legislative leaders came just two weeks after he urged New Yorkers from driving if they were intoxicated.
Among Republicans eyed as potential successors, said Assemblyman John Salka, a Madison County Republican whose district includes Oneonta and Cooperstown, are: Assemblymen Andy Goodell of Jamestown, Will Barclay of Fulton and Stephen Hawley of Albion. The bulk of the GOP conference hails from the upstate region.
Goodell, the cousin of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, is "our debater extraordinaire, the guy who makes our case on the floor. He is so effective I'd hate to lose that," said Salka.
Salka revealed he spoke directly to Kolb Thursday. "I told him: "You very might have to make some decisions with your career.' I was just being truthful with him."
By Friday, said Doug Muzzio, a Baruch College political science professor and veteran observer of state politics, Kolb was in so much hot water politically and legally that "the situation demanded he resign."
"How can you defend a state lawmaker who is a leader, out there drunk while he's riding around in a state vehicle?" Muzzio said.
Kolb briefly waged a campaign for his party's gubernatorial nomination in 2018 but pulled the plug on the effort just weeks after it began.
Among lingering questions following the crash of his state vehicle was whether Kolb, a fiscal conservative on tax issues, has decided to pay for the damage to the Acadia out of his own funds.
His government spokesman, Michael Fraser, said Thursday the damage estimate was not immediately known.
Former Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, a Republican from Peru who served with Kolb while she was in office from 2007 through 2016, said Kolb stepping down as leader seems like the right thing to do.
"He has been an outstanding leader and he has never allowed his personal life to interfere with the conference so I am not surprised he is doing this," Duprey said.
Assemblyman D. Billy Jones (D-Plattsburgh) agreed with Duprey.
“This decision was likely the best decision that Assemblyman Kolb could make for his conference and as a leader in New York State government," Jones said.
"It appears that he is taking full accountability for his actions and seeking the appropriate help."
Assemblyman Daniel Stec (R-Queensbury) also said stepping down was the right thing to do.
"Knowing Brian, I expected nothing less than to see him take full responsibility for his actions, and stepping down as leader is the right thing to do," Stec said.
Editor in Chief Joe LoTemplio contributed to this report