To the surprise of many – including, especially, the political establishment – three-term Republican state senator George Amedore of Rotterdam announced on Black Friday that he would not run for reelection next year. Of the seldom seen fashion plate, all I can say is, George, we hardly knew ye.
Maybe it shouldn’t have been such a surprise. Even as blue waves lapped around his BVDs in 2018 and Democrats took control of the state senate, Amedore rather easily prevailed over Democratic challenger Patrice Courtney of Kingston.
For Amedore’s five-county 46th district, campaign-18 was the typical scenario. Courtney won handily in heavily Democratic Ulster by some 8,200, ran a close second in a small portion of the district in Albany County, but was buried by some 22,000 votes elsewhere. “George is strong in the rural areas,” commented a Republican operative upon hearing the news. George is in fact a monster outside of Ulster.
Presumably, millionaire Amedore, after turning 50 in September, could have been senator for life, but said he had other fish to fry. Like making a lot more money.
Most of the following is speculation, but that’s what I get paid for.
As president of Amedore Building, a major developer in the Capitol District, Amedore’s “outside income” (outside the legislature) has been reliably pegged in official filings at about $750,000 a year. Base pay for legislators is $110,000, plus mileage and expenses. Last year, a Cuomo-appointed compensation commission handed out pay raises, but placed tight restrictions on outside income. A supreme court judge overruled the commission, but the Democratic-controlled legislature could codify such rules. Amedore would not have been eager to trade the penthouse for the outhouse.
Having briefly enjoyed the privileges of majority rule, another year in a marginalized minority and with no prospects for deliverance in the immediate future would have been quite enough for Amedore. I predict he will not be the last of senior senate Republicans to announce the sudden discovery of family, friends and outside interests.
The last straw might have been the impending senate reapportionment where long down-trodden and now controlling Democrats will give back to Republicans in full measure what Republicans did to them over decades. Under any such plan, Amedore would have retained his Rotterdam stronghold, but not much else he would recognize. Bottom line: the next Republican senator, if there is one, could be a one-termer after those lines are drawn in 2021.
Amedore’s pending retirement does offer the prospect of a much-coveted open seat, however. Many will be called. Democratic chairs from the five counties will attempt to staunch the blood flow by recommending a candidate at an Albany meeting on Dec. 11, according to the Times Union. Serious candidates with deep pockets will ignore such.
Michelle Hinchey of Saugerties, with all those Ulster votes in the bag, got a jumpstart last summer and could be considered a front-runner. Jeff Collins of Woodstock may be a bit leftish, even for Woodstock, but will appeal to party activists. Might former senator Cecilia Tkaczyk, who beat Amedore (by 19 votes) in 2012 and then lost (by 13,500), come off the farm for another try? There may be others, which is to say, Hinchey will have to be something more than Daddy’s girl to navigate this political thicket.
And somewhere in Amedore’s sprawling district there must be an incumbent assembly Republican member or prominent county legislator willing to step up, if only for one term.
Ever the frustrated historian, I pass this tidbit to readers: For 62 years after former senator Arthur Wicks retired, Ulster did not have a resident state senator. Then the blue wave coughed up Jen Metzger of Rosendale in 2018. Should Democrats elect a senator in 2020, more than likely with Amedore out in a presidential year, we could have two senators living within 10 miles of each other. “Artie” (as they called Wicks) must be turning in his grave.