ALBANY — State Sen. George Amedore announced Friday that he will not seek re-election in 2020.
The Rotterdam Republican told The Daily Gazette he had never set out to be a career politician. Having won election three times to the Senate and three times to the Assembly, he is ready to step away from elected politics, though he said he’ll continue to work for the betterment of the community.
When Amedore’s term of office complete, he’ll be devoting more attention to Amedore Homes, the Guilderland-based development/construction company founded by his father. The senator, oldest of five sons, is now vice president of the company.
During his time in office, Amedore has been an advocate for lower taxes, business-friendly policies and smaller government.
“The state of New York always poses a lot of frustrations to any business owner,” he said Friday. “I’ve always tried to put the constituents first, as well as understanding the pain and frustrations small businesses feel, because they really are the backbone of the economy.”
Along with trying to get government off the back and out of the pockets of business people, Amedore has been an advocate for those struggling with addiction, and a supporter of the programs that help them.
“They need help,” he said. “I don't think we should shun people away, I think we should embrace them and help them.”
Among his other roles at the Capitol, Amedore is chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and co-chair of the bipartisan Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction.
Amedore’s first stint in the state Legislature began in 2007, when he won a special mid-term election to fill the vacant 105th Assembly District seat. He won re-election in 2008 and 2010, then ran in 2012 for the 46th Senate District, which had no incumbent because of Census-based redistricting.
He lost that election by a few dozen votes to Cecilia Tkaczyk, a Duanesburg Democrat, then defeated her decisively in 2014.
Amedore won re-election to his Senate seat in 2016 and 2018.
At least three Democrats have previously declared their intention to run in 2020 against Amedore in the 46th Senate District, which spans five counties, ranges from rural to suburban to urban, and includes both Democratic and Republican strongholds.
Without the advantage of incumbency, the Republican candidate may face a tougher fight than Amedore had. For the same reason, there may be more Democrats jumping into the fray. For example, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, said Friday that he’s considering a run for the 46th. He said he hadn’t expected Amedore’s announcement, so he couldn’t be any more definitive at this point.
Party leaders also could not be more definitive Friday.
Schenectady County Republican Committee Chairman Chris Koetzle said Amedore gave him and the four other county-level GOP chairs in the district some advance notice of his decision but not enough that they could make real progress in finding a replacement candidate.
“We’ve talked a few names but at this juncture we don’t have anybody we’re ready to settle on,” Koetzle said.
The Republican leaders plan to meet soon to focus their search, which has some urgency of time. The general election is nearly a year off but the primaries are only seven months away and county chairs must file their list of party positions by Feb. 11.
“George will be hard shoes to fill — he’s a great sanator,” Koetzle said, adding that the next Republican candidate can’t be assured of victory just because Amedore won. “There’s no gimmes anywhere anymore,” he said.
However, he thinks that upstate New Yorkers appreciate the GOP fighting for their interests against downstate Democrats who control state government.
“People are looking for a balance in Albany, and that’s going to help us,” he said.
On the Democratic side, three people have already declared their intent to seek election: Jeff Collins of Woodstock, Michelle Hinchey of Saugerties and Jeff Stark of Amsterdam.
Hinchey seems not to be daunted by competition within her own party, or the potential for more competition. She told The Gazette on Friday that she already has been traveling through the district for five months, meeting with residents and community leaders.
Montgomery County Democratic Committee Chairman Terry Bieniek said he and the four other county committee chairs in the district will meet Dec. 11 in Albany to discuss uniting behind a single candidate.
“We definitely are trying hard to get the seat back,” he said. “Next year with the presidential election, it’s going to be a lot of voters.”
He added that in the midterm elections, “The Republicans are better at coming out to vote. We seem to come out strong in the presidential. I think Democrats will definitely have a good shot.”
Of course, Amedore won re-election in 2016, at the same time as the last presidential election.
“Amedore always did well here, it was tough to beat him here, Bieniek said. “I think [the district] leans toward the Democrats but Amedore always ran so strong in rural areas.”
Amedore doesn’t cite a single highlight or lowlight of his career — not $10 million downtown grants for his district’s cities, not devastating floods in his district’s valleys.
“There’s a lot of things," he said. "I can’t just come up with one particular highlight because I never looked for the one big moment. So often, he said, the job has been about somebody’s utilities being turned off, or some state agency delaying a license for a new business — “little things getting done that normally never get done. There’s so many things that have really touched my heart, and my team, my staff and I, have been able to get these victories.
“It’s taught me a lot, it’s helped me become a better person to understand that there’s lots of needs out there.”
Amedore added that at the age of 50, he’s a long way from finished.
“This is a tough decision for me because I enjoyed the public service. But I can still give back to the community in many different ways.”
Everybody can give back, Amedore added — if not as a legislator then as a volunteer firefighter, or in the military, or by helping out at the City Mission, or by volunteering in the local library.
“If we want a healthy and more united society, we all have to help.”