He was Democratic a member from Erie County of the New York State Assembly from 1885 to 1891. As an assemblyman, he secured the appointments of his brother John as a clerk in the New York Aqueduct Board, and of his law partner Charles F. Tabor as First Deputy of the New York State Attorney General. In 1891, he was elected Speaker of the New York State Assembly.
He was a member of the New York Democratic State Committee from 1889 to 1893, and a member from New York of the Democratic National Committee in 1891 and 1896. He was a delegate from New York to the Democratic National Convention in 1912.
In 1911, he was a candidate to succeed Chauncey Depew as United States Senator. He was the front-runner in the caucuses, but was successfully blocked by a group of State legislators led by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
He was a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention of 1915.
He died in 1917 in command of a multi-million dollar fortune.