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Dwindling NY Senate GOP Conference Could Shrink Even More

New York state Capitol
Jim Levulis

Rochester-area Senator Joseph Robach’s announcement Wednesday that will he not seek re-election in 2020 makes him the fourth Republican Senator to do so in recent weeks. 

For nearly all of the past century, with a few brief breaks, Republicans ruled the New York State Senate. Then, in 2018 they lost a number of seats to give Democrat a decisive 40-seat majority out of the 63 Senate districts. 

During the 2019 session, the GOP mostly watched as Democrats rapidly passed a number of progressive items, including laws strengthening the right to abortion, transgender rights, criminal justice reforms, and a ban on single-use plastic bags at the grocery store.   

In recent days, three Republican senators have announced they are done after next year. George Amedore represents parts of the Capital Region and Hudson Valley, Michael Ranzenhofer’s district is in the Buffalo suburbs, and Betty Little is a longtime lawmaker from the North Country. 

Little held a news conference announcing her retirement. 

“The first thing I thought of when I got up this morning was the biblical passage that says ‘that day will come’,” Little said on December 5.  

The chair of the state’s Republican Party, Nick Langworthy, predicts that the day has come for others to exit the Senate as well, and he says he’s not really surprised by the announcements so far, including the call from Amedore one day after Thanksgiving.    

“I was pretty sure when I got the call from Senator Amedore at 10 o’clock on Black Friday it wasn’t because he got a good deal on a TV,” Langworthy said.   

He says Amedore's district, which he says has had a “bit of blue wave” in the last few years, might be tough for Republicans to hold. But Langworthy says he expects the GOP to keep the other two seats. Langworthy would not comment on whether his wife, Erin Baker Langworthy, might run for the Ranzenhofer seat. There’s been speculation that she might seek the post.  

The state Republican chair says his goal is to find a new group of young and energetic Republicans to run for Senate and other state offices. He thinks eventually the legislature’s liberal agenda will create a backlash and an opportunity for the GOP to regain power. 

“There are so many things that the left has done since you’ve had totalitarian control of the Capitol that are going to make the job of winning these seats so much easier,” Langworthy said. “Just wait until people out on the street figure out what the criminal justice reforms will mean to their people in their communities when crime spikes.”   

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins disagrees with Langworthy on the Democrats’ agenda. She thinks the items approved, including a property tax cap and allowing victims of childhood sexual abuse to have their day in court, will win the Democrats more seats.

She predicts that the Senate Democrats will grow to 43 members after next November’s elections. 

“I’m looking for at least 43,” Stewart-Cousins said. “That is the floor, not the ceiling.”  

Forty three is a key number because that’s how many Senate votes it would take to override any potential vetoes by a governor, though Stewart-Cousins says she does not anticipate having that conflict with Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

Stewart-Cousins says she, like Langworthy, is also not surprised by the declining Senate GOP. 

“I think that speaks volumes, I think they understand that we are going to continue to have a Democratic majority in the Senate,” she said. “It also speaks to the environment for them nationally. Because our Republicans, frankly, have been muted about so many important things.”  

Stewart-Cousins says President Donald Trump has backed many policies unpopular in New York, including an end to the deduction for state and local taxes on federal income tax forms, and New York Republicans have been unable to speak up about that. 

In addition to the retirements announced so far, there will soon be an open seat in the Syracuse area. Republican Senator Bob Antonacci, who in 2018 replaced longtime GOP lawmaker John DeFrancisco, is leaving the Senate at the end of the year after winning a post for judge in November.

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