The Monroe County legislator is the eighth Republican leaving the Senate since the Democrats took control
ALBANY – Sen. Joseph Robach, who has served in the state Legislature since 1991, announced Wednesday he will not seek re-election next year, joining a growing number of Senate Republicans who are leaving the state Capitol.
Robach served in the state Assembly as a Democrat from 1991 through 2002, and then in a controversial move, he switched parties and won election as a Republican to the Senate in 2002.
Robach, 61, of Greece, has easily won re-election since, despite a district with a heavy Democratic enrollment that runs through the city of Rochester and into the suburbs, including his hometown.
“It has been an honor and privilege to represent Rochester and Monroe County in the state Senate and state Assembly," Robach said in a statement.
"I have had the opportunity to accomplish much, meet many great people and assist thousands of residents in our community throughout my tenure in elected office."
But Robach continued that Democrats' control of the state Legislature this year helped fuel his decision to leave Albany. Democrats won control of the state Senate last year, and now hold 40 of the 63 seats in the chamber,
"I, like many others, am now suffering from the divisive New York City politics that have engulfed everything in the State Capitol. This has impacted my decision not to seek re-election," he said.
Robach has been outspoken over the years about the upstate and downstate political differences and the impact it has on his district. He even supported breaking New York into two states: upstate and downstate.
He succeeded his father, Roger Robach, in the Assembly. His father was a local legend, having served in the Assembly from 1975 until his death in 1991.
"I have always made my service to be of purpose and have spent my entire career ensuring that Monroe County, Rochester and upstate has a strong voice in state government," the younger Robach said.
Robach's exit makes him the eighth Senate Republican to resign, seek other office or decide against re-election in the year since Democrats took control of the chamber.
Sen. Catherine Young, R-Olean, stepped down for a position with Cornell AgriTech in February.
Two western New York senators — Rob Ortt and Chris Jacobs — are seeking congressional seats. Sen. Rob Antonacci of the Syracuse area won a judgeship in November.
And four Republicans in the last 10 days have said they won't run for another term in 2020: Robach; George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, Schenectady County; Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, Erie County; and Betty Little of the North Country.
Prior to Robach's announcement, New York GOP Chair Nick Langworthy told reporters Monday he anticipates more Senate Republicans would be announcing their retirement soon.
Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, praised Robach's tenure, calling him an "outstanding public servant" that the people of Rochester will "miss tremendously."
Flanagan said it will be up to the GOP to "aggressively recruit candidates" to retain their Senate seats.
"My job, working with my colleagues, is to go after hopefully good sitting elected officials who will jump in to run for elective office," he told reporters Wednesday. "I believe we're in a pretty good spot."
Senate Democrats said the flurry of Republican departures speaks to the party's diminished role in Albany.
"Every day we see another Republican Senator abandon the sinking ship and announce their retirement," said Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Senate Democrats. "Having no money, no candidates and no ideas is a bad combination."
Robach said New York City lawmakers now control the state Legislature.
"It is imperative that any Senate representative from our region, regardless of political affiliation, be willing to stand up to the New York City power brokers that now control our state capitol, and put our region and people first," his statement said.
"I hope that my performance has reflected my deep appreciation for the opportunity to serve in elected office and the continued support I have received from the community that I love.”
New York's 56th district includes Greece, Gates, Brighton, Clarkson, Hamlin, Parma and parts of Rochester.
Already three Democrats have announced intentions to run to for the seat in 2020.
They include Jeremy Cooney, a lawyer and one-time chief of staff to Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, who garnered 44% of the vote in his run for the seat as a first-time candidate last year.
The two others are Sherita Traywick, a professor of criminal justice at the Rochester Institute of Technology; and Hilda Rosario Esher, the former president and CEO of the Ibero-American Action League.
Includes reporting by Democrat and Chronicle staff writer Victoria Freile.