State Sen. Michael Nozzolio

State Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, delivers remarks in October 2013 at a rally to save Butler Correctional Facility in Wayne County. 

Robert Harding | The Citizen

For the first time in more than 25 years, state Sen. Michael Nozzolio won't be on the general election ballot in his state Senate district. 

Citing health issues, Nozzolio, R-Fayette, announced Tuesday he won't seek re-election this year. The news shocked colleagues in the state Legislature, many of whom said they had no prior knowledge of the decision. 

Nozzolio's departure raises an obvious question: Who will succeed him in the state Senate? 

The 54th Senate District covers all or parts of six counties — Cayuga, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Tompkins and Wayne. The cities of Canandaigua and Geneva are in the district, along with a portion of Auburn. 

Republicans hold a sizable enrollment edge. There are 14,255 more active GOP voters than Democrats in the district. 

"While it's too early to discuss specific candidates, the 54th Senate District is a strong Republican seat and we certainly expect to retain it," said Scott Reif, a Senate GOP spokesman. 

There is a reason for the GOP's confidence. Since 1998, Nozzolio only faced a Democratic opponent twice — Paloma Capanna in 2008 and Ed O'Shea in 2010. 

Nozzolio won both races by 52,442 votes and 34,899 votes, respectively. 

In the past two elections, he ran unopposed. 

On the Republican side, there are plenty of potential successors, including three members of the state Assembly. 

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, who lives in Canandaigua, declined to discuss a potential run for Senate. He said Nozzolio's health is the biggest concern. 

"I think there's plenty of time for politics down the road," he said in a phone interview. 

Other possible contenders include Assembly members Gary Finch and Bob Oaks — both of whom live in the 54th Senate District. 

Finch, R-Springport, said he received phone calls about the now-open Senate seat, but he's focused on representing his Assembly district. 

"I'm flattered, but I haven't made up my mind," he said. "I'd like to see how things play out for the senator and his health issue. I don't know if this is the time to even think about something like that." 

For Democrats, the bench isn't as deep. But there are local elected officials who live in the 54th District, including Cayuga County Legislature Chairman Keith Batman and county Legislator Ben Vitale. 

Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats, didn't address the Senate seat that will be up for grabs this fall. Instead, he focused on Nozzolio's health. 

"We wish him the best and a speedy recovery," he said. 

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