GLENS FALLS — With state Sen. Betty Little’s announcement Thursday that she would not seek re-election in 2020, the political dominoes will start to fall and the scramble begins to fill her seat representing the 45th Senate District.
Little departing the race could result in open seats for the Assembly and Senate districts, if Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, decides to run for her seat.
The district includes all of Warren, Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties and parts of St. Lawrence and Washington counties.
Clinton County Treasurer Kimberly Davis, a Democrat, announced her candidacy in May.
Warren County Republican Committee Chairman Mike Grasso said Thursday he believes Stec will seek Little’s seat. He has talked to him in the past and Stec aspires to move up to be a senator, Grasso said.
“Dan is ready to run for that spot,” Grasso said.
Stec was unopposed for re-election in November 2018 to a fourth two-year term in the Assembly.
“Dan is well-liked and has done a great job and has been a real voice for the North Country, so I don’t see anybody stepping up to oppose him for that seat,” he added.
That being said, the county committees are going to be getting together in January to hold endorsement meetings, according to Grasso.
Stec declined to comment Thursday when asked whether he would seek her seat.
“They’ll be a time in the not-too-distant future to talk about politics and her seat,” he said.
Stec did point out that his political career has followed a similar path to hers — starting in local government on the Queensbury Town Board for two terms, then town supervisor from 2004 to 2012 and then representing the 114th Assembly District for the last seven years.
Before being elected to the Senate in 2002, Little served in the Assembly. She was voted in through a special election in 1995 to replace James King, who resigned to become a judge. Little started her political career as a Queensbury at-large county supervisor.
Being in the minority
Grasso said he was a little surprised by Little’s announcement as he had been talking with her throughout the year and she said she was still running.
“As far as I knew interested in retaining the seat,” he said. “I know she was with her family over Thanksgiving and we had a brief discussion. I think everybody in the family said ‘spend more time with us.’”
When asked about whether the Democrats taking control of the Senate in 2019 for the first time in almost a decade influenced Little’s decision, Grasso said it probably did.
“I’m as sure being in the minority is no fun, especially when you have both houses and the governor with a very liberal tilt to it,” he said. “You’re constantly opposing what’s coming at you and you can do nothing about it.”
Little herself said at the press conference that this year has been challenging being in the minority.
Grasso expressed confidence that the seat would remain in GOP hands.
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“I think this is a Republican district. Trump won it. I think the Democrats will throw money up here,” he said, adding that he cannot see voting in a Democrat to replace Little after the job she did representing the district.
Other Republican state senators have decided not to run for re-election, including George Amedore, of Rotterdam, in the 46th District.
Democrat in the race
There was already an announced Democratic candidate in the race for the 45th Senate District seat. Clinton County treasurer Kimberly Davis declared her candidacy in May.
Davis issued a statement on Little’s retirement, thanking her for her service to the North Country.
“I appreciate that she has served her constituents in the various elected positions she has held. Although we differ on political ideology, I respect her commitment to her constituents through her extended service in the New York State Senate and other public offices,” she said.
Davis said in a follow-up phone interview that she believes Little’s retirement makes the seat more competitive.
“When you look at the (voter) registration, it isn’t as lopsided as people think it is,” she said.
As of Nov. 1, the district has 70,537 registered Republicans, 58,943 Democrats, 12,382 Independence Party members and 40,564 people with no party affiliation, according to state Board of Elections data.
“There are plenty of people in our region that vote for the person — not necessarily the party. I think when people see who I am, what I represent, my background; I don’t think they’ll have any problem in voting for me,” Davis said.
Davis has served as Clinton Country treasurer since 2014. Davis said among her top issues are being responsible with taxpayer dollars.
“Taxes are too high. If someone wants to bring a bill that has an associated cost, they better tell me how they are going to pay for it. Waste and inefficiency in government cannot be tolerated,” she said in a news release.
She also wants to expand broadband and cellphone access in order to attract more businesses and retain workers.
Little had not had a competitive race in years. She easily defeated Democratic challenger Emily Martz — 61% to 36% — in the November 2018 election. Martz was Little’s first major party opponent since 2006, when she defeated Tim Merrick by a 2-1 margin. She was uncontested in subsequent elections until 2016, when Green Party candidate Steve Ruzbacki mounted a challenge. He received 12 percent of the votes compared with 88 percent for Little.
Martz did not return a Facebook message on Thursday seeking comment about whether she had an interest in the seat.
Assembly seat in flux
If Stec were to run, it would open up his Assembly seat. Grasso said there have been a few people that have expressed interest. He has heard some rumblings that Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Shaun Gillilland, of Willsboro, may be interested.
Grasso said he had wanted to consider Rachel Seeber, but she was just elected to her old position as an at-large Queensbury supervisor.
Glens Falls Third Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer, a Democrat, has expressed interest in running for the position.
Braymer, an attorney, said Thursday she would make a final decision on whether to seek Stec’s Assembly seat early in the new year.
If she did run, Braymer said she would like to focus on increasing affordable housing, expanding cell coverage and working to retain and attract workers.
“One of the most important things is to bring the voice of the North Country to Albany,” she said.