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Could NY GOP Lose More Senators?

New York state Capitol
Jim Levulis
New York state Capitol

The ranks of Senate Republicans in New York have been greatly diminished over the past year, with losses in the November elections, and other GOP Senators saying this summer that they are seeking new jobs.

Republicans held the State Senate for nearly a century, with only a pair of two-year breaks when the Democrats gained power. But that ended last November, when the GOP lost eight seats. They now have just 22 Republican Senators to the Democrats’ 40 seats.     

When the GOP lost the majority before, it was by a much narrower margin, and Republicans had always won back enough seats in the following election to regain control of the Senate. 

The state Republican Party Chair, Nick Langworthy, says he believes that can happen again. 

“I start with the premise that if we lost it in one election, we should be able to gain it back in one election,” Langworthy said in an interview with public radio and TV. 

Langworthy admits he faces tougher odds the next time there are statewide elections, in November 2020.  

In addition to 2018’s big losses, other Republican Senators have left or are trying to leave. 

The Senate Finance Committee Chair, Cathy Young, won reelection, but exited the Senate in the first months of this year’s session for a job with Cornell University. Young had tried, unsuccessfully, to become the Senate’s minority leader.    

Senator Bob Antonacci, the former Onondaga County Comptroller, was elected to fill the seat held by longtime Syracuse area Republican John DeFrancisco. But Antonacci is now on the November ballot to be a state Supreme Court judge.  

Two Western New York GOP Senators, Robert Ortt and Chris Jacobs, say they will run in a primary for the Congressional seat of embattled U.S. Representative Chris Collins, who has not yet said whether he will seek reelection.   

And, at least two other Republican Senators have expressed concerns over a new rule that could end Senators’ ability to earn any significant outside income after next year. George Amedore, a builder who represents parts of the Capital Region and the Hudson Valley, has not yet said whether he’ll seek another term. Senator Tom O’Mara, from the Elmira area, who also has a private law practice, is one of several lawmakers who have filed a lawsuit against the ban on outside income, and has not yet made a commitment to seek reelection.   

Langworthy says he can’t blame GOP Senators who are in the minority for leaving for better opportunities. 

“When you’re in a minority situation, it’s more difficult to keep people and retain them if they see another opportunity to advance their career,” he said.

But Langworthy says he is optimistic, and hopes in that in the local elections this year he can begin to rebuild the party by fielding good candidates for municipal elections. He says President Donald Trump, though unpopular with the majority of New Yorkers, does have great appeal in some parts of upstate and rural regions. Trump will be at the top of the ticket next November, and that could help Republican candidates in some state Senate districts. Langworthy, who took over the chairmanship from Ed Cox in July, says he is actively recruiting candidates. 

“We are on a recruitment mission right now to find the best and the brightest candidates,” Langworthy said. “Some new faces, some young faces, finding more female candidates is a number one priority of ours.”

A spokesman for the Senate Democrats, Mike Murphy, called Langworthy “delusional.” He predicts more losses for the Republicans if they further tie the New York GOP to Trump, and what Murphy says are the President’s “radical and hateful policies” that he says have “no place in New York.”  

A spokesman for the Senate Republicans, Scot Reif, says he agrees with Langworthy’s statements, but that it’s premature to speculate on the future election plans for Senate Republicans, and that members will make their decisions "at the appropriate time.”

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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