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ALBANY -- Assemb. Robert Sweeney, the dean of the Suffolk County Assembly delegation, said Thursday he is stepping down in December, retiring at the end of his 27th year in office.
"I have decided not to run for re-election," Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), 64, said. "I've been debating it for a while and I felt it was right time to move forward and do some different things. I turn 65 at the end of the month. That's not necessarily the main factor, but there comes a time in life when, if you want to do other things, you have to make a move or else you might not get to."
He is the second veteran Long Island lawmaker to announce his retirement this week. Earlier, Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) -- who sits two seats away from Sweeney in the 150-member Assembly -- said he won't run again after nearly 26 years in office.
Sweeney said he was going to retire, travel and volunteer -- and has a fishing trip to Alaska planned. But he won't stay on the political scene, as some retired lawmakers do.
"No consulting. No lobbying," he said.
Sweeney has represented parts of southwestern Suffolk County since 1988, when he won a special election to replace Patrick Halpin, who had been elected county executive. He rose through the ranks to become chairman of the Assembly Environmental Committee, advocating for legislation to expand New York's bottle-return law, increase money for land conservation and pollution cleanups and establish electronic waste (e-waste) collection programs. He said 350 bills that he sponsored eventually became law.
In 2013, Sweeney was on a short list of contenders for Assembly majority leader, the second-highest-ranking position in the chamber. Eventually, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) appointed Assemb. Joe Morelle (D-Rochester).
Among the Democrats mentioned as possible contenders for Sweeney's seat are three Babylon town council members: Thomas Donnelly, Jacqueline Gordon and Tony Martinez. The district has about 32,000 enrolled Democrats and 17,000 Republicans.
Possible Republican candidates include Lindenhurst clerk-treasurer Shawn Cullinane and Amityville trustee Nick LaLota, according to Suffolk Republican chairman John Jay LaValle, noting that other candidates might emerge.
LaValle said Sweeney was "a gentleman" who "worked well across party lines."
"We didn't always agree philosophically," LaValle said. "But he worked well with Republican senators to do a lot of great things for his district and for Suffolk County."