ALBANY — Progressives and political analysts say a rash of retirement announcements by veteran Republican state senators — three over the space of seven days — is a sign that Democrats are poised to gain even more seats in 2020.
Incumbents from Buffalo, Schenectady and the Adirondacks have announced they won’t run for re-election next year. Several others are said to be weighing re-election decisions while some GOP senators are looking to run for Congress. In November, a freshman Republican from Syracuse won a judicial election, choosing to run for the bench instead of re-election after just one year in Albany.
All this comes after Democrats swept to Senate power in the 2018 election, going from a one-seat deficit to a 17-seat majority. Analysts said Republicans are facing the frustration of being in the political minority — and without power — and the prospect of next year being a big Democratic year in New York because of President Donald Trump’s lack of popularity here.
So they’re leaving now.
“I think they extremely feel that loss of power. Further, the likelihood that Republicans can make up ground in 2020 is probably little to none,” Robert Spitzer, a political scientist at the State University of New York at Cortland, said. “So for those who have served a while and are used to getting things done … they’ve decided now to do something else.”
“It’s similar to something we’ve seen with Republican retirements in the House of Representatives,” Jim Twombly, an Elmira College political scientist, said, adding: “A number of these folks are in (Senate) districts that might flip” to the Democrats.”
Currently, Democrats hold a 40-23 advantage in the Senate after last year’s big wins. Democratic Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told reporters Monday that the rash of Republican retirements “speaks volumes” about the 2020 forecast for state elections.
“Every day seems to be a new Republican retirement,” Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said, before attending an annual retreat for Democratic senators.
She believes her side will pick up three seats — at minimum — next year. Forty-three seats means they would have the power to override any gubernatorial vetoes.
“I’m looking for at least 43. I think that’s the floor, not the ceiling,” the senator said.
Republicans contend they will gain Senate seats because Democrats have pushed the political agenda too far left.
“We expect to field a full slate of candidates who will stand with taxpayers against the radical agenda being implemented by the New York City-dominated Democrats in the Senate and Assembly,” Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif said. “One party rule has brought more and higher taxes, multibillion dollar budget deficits, and a focus on helping criminals and illegal immigrants over middle-class families.”
In the space of seven days, Sens. George Amedore (R-Schenectady), Betty Little (R-Queensbury) and Michael Ranzenhofer (R-Amherst) said they wouldn’t run in 2020. Amedore’s district is considered a political tossup, while the other two districts have been solidly Republican. But defending even a historically Republican seat might involve campaign spending that could be spent elsewhere, analysts noted.
One of those could be a Syracuse seat being vacated by Sen. Robert Antonacci, who won his Senate district in a nail-biter, 51 percent to 49 percent, last November. After less than a year on the job, he ran — successfully — for a state judgeship.