ALBANY — With the passage of the Green Light law, criminal justice reforms and the Climate Leadership and Protection Act, this past legislative session was a historically productive one for the Democratic Party — and a sweet taste of life back the majority in the state Senate.
On the other side of the aisle, however, the sense of defeat within the Republican Party is prominent. Perhaps nothing demonstrates that more than the Domino line of Republican senators who have announced they will not seek reelection next year.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas week, seven incumbent Republicans announced plans to retire from the state Senate, stretching from the Hudson Valley to Western New York to the North Country. At least four of the senators — including George Amedore Jr., R-46 — hail from competitive districts that could flip in the upcoming elections without an incumbent in the mix. And if Democrats win just two more seats, they would have a super majority in the Senate, meaning they could override Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s vetoes.
“Obviously going from majority to minority status is a difference in lifestyle for people that have served it for many years,” said Nick Langworthy, chairman of the New York State Republican Committee. “You have members that are used to being in a majority party and used to driving the policy discussion. They know in a 40-23 situation, that they’re not going to have many bills that are going to be passing the law next year.”
The latest Republican senator to seek retirement is Richard Funke, R-55. Before him, Joseph Robach, R-56, Michael Ranzenhofer, R-65, Elizabeth Little, R-45, Chris Jacobs, R-60, and Amedore also announced they would not be seeking reelection.
A loss of the majority hold in the Senate doesn’t only mean fewer bills being passed. It also results in smaller and fewer office spaces, less staff and less money. The Republican Senate campaign committee has just $300,000 as of this month, compared to more than $1.5 million they had the same time last year. Democrats, on the other hand, have raised nearly $4 million this year.
But Amedore refuted Langworthy’s take.
“I can tell you — and I can only speak for myself — what went into my decision of not seeking reelection. It had nothing to do with majority-minority, the party, Republicans not being able to accomplish or be successful,” he said. “I’m a Republican in a very Democratic Senate district, I’ve been extremely successful and I’ve been able to get things done with the minority and majority because I work in a bipartisan fashion and that’s what we need.”
The remaining Senate Republicans have admitted their colleagues dropping out challenges their work at the Capitol, but also seem to believe a Democratic super majority will result in their opponents shooting themselves in the foot.
“While it is true that these retirements put us in a difficult position, the fact of the matter is that in the past year, people across the state have seen the effects of one-party rule, including higher taxes and reforms that prioritize the rights of criminals and illegal immigrants over hardworking, law-abiding citizens,” state Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-48, wrote in an email. “I am confident that in the months to come, Senate Republicans will identify a slate of candidates who will stand up for taxpayers and prioritize the things that matter, like lowering the cost of living, investing in education and cutting red tape so businesses can grow.”
When asked for comment, the spokesman for Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-43, said she would be seeking reelection and will “win because she’s fought for upstate taxpayers and stood up to the New York City Democrats.”
Democrats, though, are thrilled at the potential of winning the super majority.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-35, said she’s looking for at least 43 seats — “and that’s the floor, that’s not the ceiling.”
“I think we’re ever closer to that and more,” Stewart-Cousins said. “Every day seems to be a new Republican retiring. I think that speaks volumes. I think they understand that we are going to continue to have a Democratic majority in the Senate.”
Massarah Mikati covers the New York State Legislature and immigration for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Email her at email@example.com, or find her on Twitter @massarahmikati.