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GOP clinging to majority faces veteran senator’s departure

ALBANY — One of the state Legislature’s more conservative members unexpectedly announced her retirement from an upstate district that has a growing Democratic voter enrollment, potentially giving the Senate Republicans’ slim majority another expensive headache going into the November elections.

The decision announced Wednesday night by Sen. Kathy Marchione (R-Halfmoon) came a day after Democrats won two special elections to fill vacant Senate seats and showed strength through Assembly wins in Republican areas, including Long Island and the Hudson Valley.

“The reality is that year’s end is the right time for me to step away,” Marchione stated, citing the need to care for her mother. “More importantly, it is the right thing to do for my family … My journey in elective office as New York State senator at year’s end will conclude where it all began, with the guiding grace of scripture: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’”

Now Republicans will have to find a candidate and help fund an expensive race to keep the seat while they vie in a half-dozen other races in districts with strong Democratic challengers.

Marchione’s 43rd District, which includes Saratoga County, has a narrowing Republican edge among voters. The district has 62,339 registered Democrats, 67,676 Republicans and 6,010 registered Conservative Party members as of April’s count. Two years ago, state Board of Elections records show the district had 58,464 Democrats, 66,414 Republicans and 6,076 Conservatives.

Senate Democrats said they saw Marchione as departing “their sinking ship.”

“The Senate Democratic Conference has grown by 10 members, and a blue wave is sweeping across the state that will net us even more seats in November,” said Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy.

The Senate’s Republican majority said it would retain the seat.

“This seat was once represented by Senator Bruno, and two other Republicans since then,” said Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif. “The New York City Democrats are not going to be taken seriously here, but they’re welcome to try. We will field a strong candidate who will win in November.”

Marchione won the district with strong conservative support after defeating Sen. Roy McDonald in a 2012 Republican primary that followed his critical vote to legalize same-sex marriage, an issue championed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Before McDonald, the seat was held for decades by former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

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