51st STATE SENATE DISTRICT — Veteran state Sen. James L. Seward, R-Oneonta, on Monday announced he won’t run for re-election this November, becoming the latest Republican senator from the greater Capital Region to say he won’t run again.
Seward has served in the Senate for 33 years, representing a district that has generally included Schoharie County. He announced in 2016 that he was being treated for bladder cancer, which recently recurred. He said that was a factor in his decision to retire.
“While I have responded well to cancer treatments, my physicians have advised me that treatments will continue for the forseeable future, limiting my ability to maintain the rigorous schedule needed to campaign for re-election,” Seward, 68, said in a statement. “This is the right decision for my health, my family, and the people of the 51st Senate District.”
Seward’s announcement follows the decisions late last year by Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, and Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, not to seek re-election. Some observers believe a major factor in those decisions is that the Republicans last year lost control of the Senate majority for the first time in a decade.
At least a half-dozen other Republican senators are planning to leave, based on published reports. The Democrats currently hold a 40-to-23 advantage in the 63-member body. That dominance has allowed the Democrats, who also control the Assembly, to pass a number of progressive pieces of legislation that Republicans previously had the power to block.
Seward, however, said the GOP’s current minority status wasn’t a factor in his decision. “I have effectively served under both scenarios and have always fought for the best interests of my constituents no matter the party in power — which is exactly what I will continue to do for the remainder of my term,” he said.
Seward, who was first elected to the Senate in 1986, has served as chairman of the Energy and Telecommunications and Insurance committees, and is currently ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has influential say over the state’s finances. He is also a member of the Senate Higher Education Committee.
Seward is a native of Otsego County who graduated from Oneonta schools and Hartwick College in Oneonta.
Schoharie County is at the eastern edge of the 51st District, which stretches north into the western Adirondack foothills, south into the western Catskills, and west past Cortland, covering a highly rural population. The district includes all of Schoharie, Otsego and Cortland counties, and parts of Herkimer, Tompkins, Chenango, Cayuga, Delaware and Ulster counties.
No Republican candidates had emerged as of late Monday, but the Democrats already have one candidate: Fifth-generation Middleburgh crop farmer James Barber announced in December that he would run against Seward for the seat. Barber’s father, J. Roger Barber, was the state’s commissioner of agriculture and markets from 1975 to 1983 under Gov. Hugh Carey.
The state Board of Elections says the district includes 68,867 Republicans, 58,165 Democrats and 40,839 voters not enrolled in a party.