ALBANY – After losing a numerical edge in the state Senate this week, Republicans are suddenly dropping like flies.
Though they have retained the majority, for now, with the help of a sole, breakaway Democrat from Brooklyn, Senate Republicans have seen three of their members announce in the past 48 hours that they will not seek re-election this fall.
“Clearly, the Republicans see the writing on the wall," said Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the Senate Democratic conference.
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Suffolk County Republican, expressed confidence Friday that the GOP will field excellent candidates in the three districts.
"New Yorkers know that our majority is the only thing standing in the way of New York City politicians implementing an agenda that will hurt our economy and make life more difficult for hardworking, middle-class taxpayers,'' Flanagan said.
Democrats won two seats this week in special election contests in districts previously occupied by Democrats. But Republicans are said to be especially worried about the fall elections where battles are expected on Long Island, the Hudson Valley and perhaps elsewhere.
On Wednesday night, Sen. Kathy Marchione, a Saratoga County Republican, abruptly announced she would not seek another term in this fall’s general election.
On Thursday, Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse-area Republican who a day earlier suspended his long-shot gubernatorial bid, told the Auburn Citizen that he was not running again for the Senate.
Then on Friday morning, Hudson Valley Republican Sen. John Bonacic said he, too, is leaving the Senate at the end of this year.
Marchione was elected in 2012, but together with DeFrancisco and Bonacic the three Republicans have 60 years of combined service in the Senate.
Twenty of Bonacic’s 28 years in Albany were in the Senate, where he has headed committees overseeing the Judiciary, as well as matters from gambling to housing. He has been a prime sponsor of various efforts to expand casino and fantasy sports wagering.
“Twenty years, though, is enough," Bonacic said in a statement Friday.
In recent weeks, eight renegade Democrats from a group that had been called the Independent Democratic Conference rejoined the mainline Democratic conference. Senate Democrats handily won both special election contests held earlier this week to fill vacant seats. There are now 32 Democrats in the 63-member chamber, but Republican Sen. Simcha Felder of Brooklyn said he will remain – at least through the end of the session in June – with the GOP conference.
“Democrats have gained 10 seats in two weeks, while three Senate Republicans have abandoned ship in just three days. And I am sure there are more to come," Murphy said.
Despite changing demographics, Republicans have managed to hold onto to the Senate, in part, with help from favorable district lines they got to draw once every 10 years and even growing the size of the Senate’s membership. But this year they face campaigns in an overwhelmingly blue state and with the titular head of their national party, President Trump, especially unpopular in his home state of New York.