Over the past few months, several New York state GOP senators have announced they would not seek re-election. The latest came this week: Republican James Seward.
The Republican exodus is similar to one in 2018 that resulted in flipping the Senate majority to Democrats for the first time in a decade.
Oneonta Republican Senator James Seward, of the 51st District, announced Monday he would not seek an 18th term. Instead, he will continue cancer treatments that he says would limit his ability to maintain a re-election campaign schedule. In his statement, he stressed that the decision is in no way related to majority or minority standing in the Senate, and that he has served effectively under both scenarios. Other Republican senators, such as George Amedore, are leaving for other reasons. Speaking with New York State Public Radio last year, state Republican Party Chair Nick Langworthy said he can’t blame GOP senators who are in the minority for seeking 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,” Langworthy said.
New York State Democratic Committee Chair Jay Jacobs offers a similar reason.
“The main reason, I would suspect, is that once you’re no longer in the majority, you begin to see and feel what it’s like to be in the minority, where you can’t do anything, you can’t anywhere, your staff is limited, and it’s very frustrating,” Jacobs says. “Democrats, for decades, got used to it, but never liked it. And it’s worse when you’ve been at the pinnacle and you’ve been in the majority and you’ve had all of that power to lose it and then begin to understand that life isn’t that pleasant in a legislative body when you’re in the minority and look toward the future where you might be there for a long time, you begin to say to yourself, is there a better use for my time?”
Langworthy, in a statement Tuesday, says, “One-party Democrat rule has been an unmitigated disaster for the middle class. Whether it's the billions more in new taxes and fees, or the horrific bail reform laws that are putting public safety at risk, the agenda Democrats will have to answer for in the 2020 elections will be rejected by New Yorkers from Buffalo to Brookhaven. We will have a great slate of candidates and a powerful message that we respect taxpayers and will restore commonsense to state government."
In his comments over the summer, Langworthy noted that President Donald Trump, who has appeal in some of New York’s upstate and rural regions, will be at the top of the ticket in November, which could boost some Republican candidates. Langworthy has been 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.”
“Losing an incumbent is never a good thing for a party,” Jacobs says.
And when that seat is open from a Republican departure, Jacobs says there are opportunities for Democrats.
“A seat that’s been held for a long time by a republican incumbent is going to generally lean Republican,” says Jacobs. “The difference is there are certain districts now where demographics are shifting, particularly we see places like the suburbs, even in the Hudson Valley, and where Republican incumbents held on because of name recognition and because they’ve had time to build good relationships with the voters. As you have these senators stepping out, it opens all sorts of opportunities.”
In the 2018 election, two longtime Republican Hudson Valley state senators did not seek re-election — John Bonacic and Bill Larkin. Democrats Jen Metzger and James Skoufis, respectively, won the seats. Larkin died eight months after leaving office. Democrat Pete Harckham defeated Republican Terrence Murphy while Republican Sue Serino held on to her seat, narrowly, and faces a rematch this year against Democrat Karen Smythe.
Prior to Seward’s announcement, Democrat Jim Barber, a Middleburgh farmer, launched his campaign in December. And before Amedore, in the 46th District, said he would not seek re-election, Democrat Michelle Hinchey had announced a run. Since, another Democrat, child victim’s advocate Gary Greenburg said he was exploring a run and Democrat Jeff Collins pulled out to back Hinchey.