45th STATE SENATE DISTRICT -- The veteran state senator who has represented a huge district stretching from Glens Falls to Canada, including the heart of the Adirondacks, announced Thursday that she won't seek re-election after nearly 40 years in local and state politics.
Sen. Betty Little, 79, of Queensbury, has represented the 45th Senate District, which is the geographically largest in the state and includes all or parts of Warren, Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, Essex and Clinton counties. After 17 years in the seat, she made announcements Thursday in Glens Falls and Plattsburgh that she won't seek re-election for a tenth two-year term in 2020.
“Although it is very difficult for me to contemplate stepping away from the public service that I love so much, it’s time,” Little said in Glens Falls, according to North Country Public Radio.
Little is the second Republican state senator from the greater Capital Region to announce they wouldn't seek re-election, following the Democratic takeover of the state Senate last January. Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, announced last Friday that he wouldn't run again.
Little, who was previously a Warren County legislator and member of the state Assembly starting in 1996, first ran for the Senate in 2002, following the retirement of veteran Republican Sen. Ronald B. Strafford of Plattsburgh, who at the time was one of the most powerful upstate legislators. Little holds the title of assistant minority leader.
Speculation about her replacement on the GOP ticket has focused on Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, who is a former Queensbury town supervisor with a strong base of support in the southern part of the district. Stec, who is also a former chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, has been in the Assembly since 2013. Stec did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Clinton County Treasurer Kimberly Davis has previously announced a Democratic bid for Little's seat; it isn't yet clear whether other Democrats, such as Assemblyman Billy Jones of Plattsburgh, might be interested in running.
Warren County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Lynne Boecher said Little has served the district well. "I join with fellow Democrats in thanking her for her service and wish her well on her well-earned retirement," Boecher said.
The advantage in any election contest will be to Republicans. The 45th Senate District has 58,943 registered Democrats, 70,537 registered Republicans, and 40,564 independents, according to the state Board of Elections.
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, released a statement praising Little for her long career, having entered politics when it was less common to see a woman achieve elected state office.
“Betty Little truly sets the bar for her tireless and effective public service to her constituents,” Stefanik said. “Our community has watched in awe as Betty dedicated decades of her life to representing the hardworking families of upstate New York. I often get asked about women in politics, and I always proudly point to our local icon Betty Little who quietly shattered glass ceilings before it was hailed by the media. She has been a tremendous role model for so many."
Not everyone admired Little, though. Some environmentalists think she fought too hard against government regulations in the Adirondacks.
"Little voted against every major piece of environmental legislation in her career, voted against gay marriage and gender equality," Peter Bauer of Protect the Adirondacks wrote on Twitter. "She gutted [the Adirondack Park Agency] through approval of board members who oppose the park."
The Adirondack Council, however, credited her for supporting funding to fight invasive species, increasing diversity in the Adirondacks, and working to reduce the use of road salt. "The senator was always willing to explain her position and seek opportunities to work together, even when we didn't always agree," said council Executive Director William C. Janeway.
The Adirondack Park Agency Local Government Review Board, which represents local governments in the Adirondack Park, called Little "exceptionally effective advocate for Adirondack residents."