State senator in his third term will not run for reelection in 2020.
State Sen. Rich Funke, R-Perinton, put to rest rumblings that he would not seek reelection when he announced Tuesday he will not be on the ballot in 2020.
The longtime news anchor turned politician who first won the seat in 2014, Funke said he believes in term limits and the time is right to make this third term in the Senate his last.
Quoting Abraham Lincoln in a video statement, Funke said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you really want to test a man’s character give him power. I’m indebted to the people of the 55th district for trusting me with the power to represent you in Albany and I hope I showed the kind of character that you expected of me.”
Constituents and colleagues in Albany praised Funke for his character and accomplishments.
“While his decision not to seek another term in the state Senate is disappointing, he can be immensely proud of the service and leadership he provided to our region,” stated Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua. “Rich has been an incredible teammate while representing areas of Ontario County. I have always appreciated his honesty, integrity and willingness to stand up for what’s right for the people of our region and great state.”
State Sen. Joe Robach, R-Greece, called Funke a “consummate statesman” and a “role model for other elected officials and everything that is right about public service.”
“Certainly, what made Rich unique was that he already had a successful career in broadcasting, but ran for public office out of appreciation for our community. We should all be grateful for his dedicated service and representation of Rochester and Monroe County in the New York State Senate,” Robach stated.
The 55th district stretches from Lake Ontario to the Finger Lakes, covering towns in Monroe County and the east side of the city of Rochester, and towns in Ontario County. Thanking supporters Tuesday, Funke recapped highlights during the past five years of his tenure, including expansion of Rochester General Hospital, a new sewer system in Naples, a commerce safe zone in Irondequoit, full-day kindergarten in Pittsford and legislative gains such as a food bank tax credit for farmers, cost of living raise for permanently disabled firefighters, and closing a loophole to ensure health coverage for newborn babies.
“These laws are not flashy. You don’t go to Albany to be a show horse. You go to be a work horse for your commiunity,” he said.
In Naples, where Funke directed state aid for a multimillion-dollar sewer project, Mayor Brian Schenk said he is sorry to lose Funke’s representation in the Senate. “He has been a very good friend to Naples,” said Schenk.
In Richmond and Canadice, where Funke supplied nearly half a million dollars in state aid for flood relief in 2015, Richmond Councilman Steve Barnhoorn said “our town will be in his debt for helping us in our time of need.”
Funke joins a list of state Senate Republicans opting out of reelection in 2020. They include Robach, who announced last week he will not run again after 28 years in the state Legislature.
Funke's district will become yet another seat eyed by Democrats as the party seeks to widen its Senate majority, which already sits at 40-23. The power shift has helped fuel an exodus of Senate Republicans from Albany, with Funke making eight current GOP senators who have declined to run for re-election or are seeking a different office next year.
The 55th Senate district had 79,311 active enrolled Democrats last month compared to 55,164 Republicans, according to the state Board of Elections. Funke was twice able to easily win election, dispatching then-Sen. Ted O'Brien, an Irondequoit Democrat, by more than 16,000 votes in 2014 before running unopposed in 2016. Funke enjoyed a narrower victory in 2018, defeating Democrat Jen Lunsford by 4 percentage points, or 4,872 votes.
Lunsford, a Penfield lawyer and activist, announced in September she will run again in 2020.
“We have no representation in Albany's majority between Buffalo and Syracuse,” she told Messenger Post Media Tuesday. “If we are serious about making positive changes for our schools, for our health, for our environment and our economy, we need a strong, Democratic voice fighting for the people of the Finger Lakes. In 2018, I proved I have what it takes to fight against big money and entrenched political power. I am ready to bring that fight to Albany on behalf of the 55th.”
Another Democrat entered the field last month. “This campaign is about all of us working together to address the challenges we’re facing — education, housing affordability, climate change, access to quality jobs,” tweeted Samra Brouk, a Rochester resident, in announcing her campaign for the 55th Senate seat.
Includes reporting by USA TODAY Network