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Foss: Retirements in Senate show GOP in state is now weak

Foss: Retirements in Senate show GOP in state is now weak

Foss: Retirements in Senate show GOP in state is now weak
George Amedore in 2016
Photographer: Gazette file photo

Their reasons might differ, but the result is the same: One less Republican incumbent seeking re-election to the New York state Senate in 2020.

When Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, announced that he wouldn’t run for re-election, he told The Daily Gazette that he never set out to be a career politician.

Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, simply said, “It’s time,” while Sen. James Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, said he wanted to spend more time with his family.

On Monday, Sen. James Seward, R-Oneonta, became the ninth Senate Republican to announce that he wouldn’t seek re-election, citing his ongoing battle with bladder cancer.

The senators all have perfectly good reasons for stepping away from the political fray.

Little is nearing 80 and has served in the Legislature for 25 years; you can’t fault her for deciding it’s time for a change.

Nor can you fault Seward for focusing on his health. Or Amedore for deciding he’d rather focus on Amedore Homes, the Guiderland-based development/construction business where he serves as vice president.

Taken together, though, these GOP retirements suggest that the state of the New York Republican Party is weak, and will remain weak for some time. If you believe competitive elections and vigorous debate are good for democracy, this is bad news.

While Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan has sounded an optimistic note, saying that unpopular Democratic initiatives will help Republicans retake the Senate this fall, the wave of retirements suggests that his members see little hope of returning to the majority.

Which is pretty remarkable, when you think about it.

It wasn’t that long ago — 2018, to be precise — that Republicans controlled the state Senate and were still a force to be reckoned with.

But the Democratic takeover of the Senate changed that, and Republicans are now very much a minority party, with little power or influence at the state level.

And while most lawmakers say their reasons for stepping down have nothing to do with being in the minority party, that’s hard to believe.

Indeed, one retiring lawmaker, Sen. Joe Robach, R-Greece, indicated that Democratic control of the state Senate was a factor in his decision to step down, saying, “I, like many others, am now suffering from the divisive New York City politics that have engulfed everything in the state Capitol.”

Democrats currently control 40 of the Senate’s 63 seats.

The GOP will probably retain most of those seats in the upcoming general election, but I’d be surprised if they retain all of them.

Amedore’s district is a swing district that ought to be competitive this fall — Democrat Michelle Hinchey has announced that she will run for the seat — while Robach’s district is home to a lot of Democrats.

In all likelihood, the Democratic edge in the Senate will increase, rather than decrease.

The consequence of this will be one-party rule — a state government that is dominated by downstate concerns and issues for years to come.

Upstate New Yorkers won’t lack for representation.

But they might wonder whether their voices are truly being heard.

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