It is the end of an era in New York politics. Republican New York state Senator Bill Larkin announced Thursday he will retire. The 90-year-old Hudson Valley senator became the fifth Republican in recent days to announce he will not seek re-election. But Larkin says he had made up his mind four months ago.
Former New York Governor George Pataki introduced Larkin in the Bill and Pat Larkin Learning and Activity Center at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center.
“I was in the Assembly with Bill Larkin. I was in the Senate with Bill Larkin. I was governor when you had Senator Bill Larkin,” Pataki said. “Over that time period, I met literally hundreds and hundreds of state legislators from every corner of this state. Not one worked harder, cared more or did more for the people he represented than Senator Bill Larkin.”
A few minutes later, Pataki, a Republican, closed his remarks.
“You’re leaving Albany. You’re not leaving Orange County,” said Pataki. “I can’t wait to hear what your next crazy idea is and, by God, I’ll help you pull it off and make it happen. Senator Bill Larkin, God bless you.”
Larkin, who served in World War II and Korea, and retired from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel, came to the podium with his wife Pat.
“It’s an honor, a little tough sometimes, but Bill Kaplan said to me this morning, don’t worry, I’ll have a job for you, but you’ll have to wear gloves to clean the place up,” Larkin said.
Philanthropist Bill Kaplan is founder of the Newburgh Armory Unity Center. Larkin says he is proud of not only helping with the Center, but with other projects such as the Purple Heart Hall of Honor and the SUNY Orange Newburgh campus. Larkin served nearly 40 years in the state Legislature, first in the Assembly from 1979-1990. Before that, he was Town of New Windsor supervisor. Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus attended Larkin’s announcement.
“I met him in 1992 when I was a senior in high school. He came and spoke about leadership, and I’ve been friends with him ever since. I’m a very pro-military guy, so I looked up to him from day one,” Neuhaus says. “He’s always been there for me personally when I ran for office. He’s just a loyal, good man that’s given everything to this community. And this guy deserves retirement and deserves to be with his family more than anybody I know.”
Doug Hovey called Larkin a legend. Hovey is executive director of Independent Living in Newburgh.
“He did a tremendous amount to help me get the Independent Living center started,” Hovey said. “He helped with getting the funding appropriated to set up several Independent Living centers throughout the state so that we could more effectively advocate and assist people with disabilities.”
Larkin, who represents the 39th District that includes parts of Orange, Rockland and Ulster Counties, says he had decided in January he would retire, but wanted to wait until the end of the session to make an announcement. As the fifth Republican state senator to retire, Larkin says it is coincidence, with one exception.
“The only surprise was Bonacic,” Larkin says.
He refers to Hudson Valley Senator John Bonacic of the 42nd District, which covers Sullivan County and parts of Delaware, Orange and Ulster. The 75-year-old Bonacic announced last week he would retire after 20 years in the Senate.
Meantime, Republican Stony Point Councilman Tom Basile has been waiting in the wings, with a Tom4NY web site up and running, where he says he has been building a campaign should Senator Larkin choose to retire. Again, Orange County Executive Neuhaus.
“I think Tom Basile is a strong candidate. I think he’s the pole position, the guy that looks like, that’s going to get the nominee. And I will be behind him 100 percent when he secures that Republican nomination,” says Neuhaus. “Exciting times. Orange County will be the epicenter of political activity in New York state.”
Not only are there two open state Senate seats, but there is an assembly seat vacant following the recent death of Democrat Frank Skartados. And a few more could open if certain Assemblymembers launch bids for the Senate seats.
Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis could soon announce a run for Larkin’s seat. He considered a bid in 2016 and then decided the time was not right. Skoufis issued a statement offering his respect for Larkin’s lifetime of service. Skoufis also said, "Today is about honoring Senator Larkin. Over the next two weeks, I'll discuss my options with family, supporters, and key stakeholders before making a decision about this year's election."