National News

Another State Senate Republican Bows Out, the 5th in a Week

Posted May 3, 2018 8:45 p.m. EDT

ALBANY, N.Y. — Facing considerable political headwinds, another Republican in the New York state Senate announced his retirement on Thursday, as Democrats salivated about possible gains all across President Donald Trump’s home state.

All told, five Republicans in the last week have said they will not seek re-election, opening up political battlegrounds in potential swing districts from Suffolk County to Syracuse.

The latest to do so had earned his right to retirement: Sen. William J. Larkin Jr. is 90 years old, and had served in Albany nearly 40 years, including a decade in the state Assembly. On Thursday, Larkin said that he was, “with a heavy heart,” giving up a career in public service, which also included military service in World War II and the Korean War.

“My final battle is with Father Time,” he said, in an announcement in Newburgh.

This fall, his battle would have been with Democrats, who have long coveted Larkin’s Hudson Valley district, the 39th, which has substantially more registered Democrats than Republicans. Still, Larkin had comfortably been re-elected in 2016, though his physical stamina had been tested during the current legislative session, when he was sometimes brought to and from the Senate chamber in a wheelchair.

On Wednesday, Larkin’s Republican colleague, Sen. Tom Croci of Long Island, had announced that he, too, was leaving the chamber, returning to military service in the Navy. (Learning of Croci’s decision to retire, Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the Senate Democratic Conference, had quipped, "At this rate, there will be no one left in the Republican conference by the end of session,” slated to conclude in June.)

On Thursday, however, the venerable Larkin received nothing but bipartisan praise for his long service. “Sen. Larkin has always been a gentleman and a friend,” said Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the leader of the Senate Democrats. “I hope he enjoys his retirement and this opportunity to spend time with family, friends and loved ones.”

With 31 seats, Stewart-Cousins’ Democrats are tantalizingly close to claiming the majority in the 63-seat Senate, an ambition which is currently only thwarted by the ongoing defection of Sen. Simcha Felder, D-Brooklyn, who sits and caucuses with Republicans. But with Trump deeply unpopular in New York, and pundits predicting a good year for Democrats nationwide, the makeup of the Senate could change come the November election.

And while Republican leaders in Albany are saying they still expect to grow their majority, members continue to consider their options. Last week, two veteran Republican senators — John A. DeFrancisco of Syracuse and John J. Bonacic of the Hudson Valley — said that they would not seek re-election. Kathleen A. Marchione, a Republican from Saratoga, elected in 2012, is also retiring.

In a statement, Sen. John J. Flanagan of Long Island, the Republican leader, made no mention of politics surrounding Larkin’s retirement, rather concentrating on his long service and gravitas.

“His words were so powerful, his opinion so well respected that his colleagues hung on every word,” he said. “Every speech was a new opportunity to learn something new or become a better legislator yourself.”