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Robach bows out of Senate race


Sen. Joe Robach, a fixture in Rochester politics for decades, announced Wednesday that he would not seek re-election next year.

In an interview Wednesday morning, he said his decision was influenced by “communist,” “radical far left” and “New York City” politics in the Senate.

The Senate’s political climate changed after Republicans lost the majority, he said. The GOP controlled the Senate for most of the last 100 years, but after the 2018 elections Democrats held 40 of the chamber’s 63 seats, giving the party a big edge.
Republican Senator Joe Robach - FILE PHOTO
  • Republican Senator Joe Robach

“There’s a fight going on even inside the Democratic Party, between the radical far left and mainstream Democrats, that’s not news to anybody, that’s being played out in Washington and New York and California are leading that movement,” Robach said. “That’s also permeated the New York Senate, we have people openly espousing for Communism, something I don’t favor.”

Robach, a former Democrat who turned Republican, is in his ninth term in the Senate and represents Rochester’s westside suburbs and parts of the city in the 56th District. He was first elected to the Senate in 2002 after serving 11 years in the Assembly.

Three Democrats have already stepped up to run for his seat: Jeremy Cooney, Hilda Rosario Escher and Sherita Traywick.

Democrats have a substantial voter advantage in the 56th District, but despite several attempts, the party hasn’t been able to wrest the seat from Robach. Cooney, who ran against Robach in 2018, lost by more than 10,000 votes in a race where more than 95,000 votes were cast. Robach has not yet heard of any Republicans stepping up to run for the seat, but is expecting more Democrats to pour in.

“That’s been a very challenging district, and people have said for years that when I go, it’ll be hard for a Republican, but not impossible,” Robach said. “But that’s why we have elections, people are going to have an opportunity...we have to offer the public choices, that’s what democracy is about.”

Robach’s announcement comes on the heels of three other Republican senators swearing off re-election runs. George Amedore, who represents part of the Capital Region, Michael Ranzenhofer, of the Buffalo suburbs, and Betty Little, a longtime lawmaker from the North Country, all announced their retirement from political life in recent days.

This year, Republicans were hamstrung to stop an advancing progressive agenda that included strengthening abortion and transgender rights, criminal justice reforms, and a ban on single-use plastic bags at the supermarket.

Republican Senator Rich Funke, who some are speculating won’t run for reelection, said in a statement that Rochester is losing “one of its greatest champions.”

“In an era of hyper-partisanship, Joe Robach was a glaring exception,” Funke’s statement said in part. “He would work with anyone if it meant helping the region he loved. We need more like him in public life. I’m happy for Joe and his family but sad for our region and our state. Whoever ends up succeeding him will never be able to replace him. “

Funke’s spokesperson declined to say whether the Senator will seek reelection.

This is an evolving story and will be updated throughout the day.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at [email protected].