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Eighth New York State Senator Announces Departure After 2020

Mike Groll
Sen. Rich Funke, R-Fairport, speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., in 2016.

Senator Rich Funke of Rochester is the latest Republican lawmaker to announce he will not seek reelection. Funke joins a growing list of seven other minority party GOP senators who say they are moving on to other things, after less than a year under Democratic rule in the Senate.

“I will not seek reelection to my seat in the State Senate next year,” Funke said, in a video announcing that 2020 will be his last year in the legislature.

Funke joins other Republican senators from western New York, the Capital Region and Hudson Valley and the North Country who are either not seeking reelection or are running for a congressional seat. Many of their districts are increasingly blue, and they might have faced a tough race.

“I will end my time in elected office next year on my own terms,” said Funke, who said he believes in term limits for legislators.

The Senate was led by Republicans for most of the past century, until the 2018 elections gave Democrats a decisive 40-seat majority out of 63 posts. Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan, speaking at the State Capitol earlier this month, says he expected even more GOP senators to exit after next year. And he says announcements are coming now, because the political season begins even earlier next year. For the first time, primaries of state-elected offices will be held in June instead of September.

“‘Tis the season,” said Flanagan. “We are in a jumpstarted position because of the political calendar.”

Flanagan says he intends to field credible candidates to hold the Republican seats. The Democratic leader of the Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has said she expects Democrats to pick up at least three more seats in 2020, which would give Democrats a veto-proof majority of 43 senators.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.