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Legislature moving toward passage of new $168B state budget

Deputy Majority Leader Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, talks with reporters at the state Capitol Friday, March 30, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Hans Pennink

A day after suspending his gubernatorial campaign, state Sen. John DeFrancisco said he will not seek another term representing the 50th Senate District. 

DeFrancisco, R-DeWitt, previously said it was "unlikely" he would run for re-election even if he didn't secure the Republican nomination for governor. If he won the GOP gubernatorial nod, he would be prohibited from running for governor and seeking another state Senate term. 

In an interview with The Citizen Thursday, DeFrancisco explained his final decision for not running for re-election. 

"The state needs a fundamental change," he said. "I can do my job and do the best I can and get some good things to happen in the Senate as a senator, but that's just cutting around the edges. And cutting around the edges isn't enough anymore." 

He added, "That's why I'm not running. I want to make a fundamental change and if I can't then I've served my time. I've run 17 times for office, 13 for the Senate. I've served as well as I can possibly serve." 

DeFrancisco expressed frustrations with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's leadership and certain policies, including the Democrat's recent decision to restore voting rights for parolees and threatening to sue Immigration and Customs Enforcement for what he considers "unconstitutional activities" in New York. 

As a candidate for governor, DeFrancisco railed against over-regulation and high taxes, which he believes has led to the state's population decline. 

"You can't go in that direction any longer without being able to come back and start keeping people in the state rather than forcing them out by high taxes, high spending and these policies that basically are the policies of some, but not of most New Yorkers," he said. 

DeFrancisco was first elected to the state Senate in 1993. His district was initially entirely within Onondaga County, but after redistricting in 2012 it included most of Auburn and the towns of Brutus, Cato, Ira and Sennett in Cayuga County. 

During his Senate career, he became one of the most influential and outspoken members of the Republican conference. He chaired the Senate Finance Committee and was a candidate for majority leader after Dean Skelos resigned in 2015. 

DeFrancisco was beat out for majority leader by state Sen. John Flanagan, a Long Islander. Not long after the election, Flanagan tapped DeFrancisco to serve as deputy majority leader. 

Last year, DeFrancisco began exploring a run for governor. He criss-crossed the state to meet with Republican leaders and outline his vision for New York. 

Six months after he revealed his interest in the race, he formally announced his candidacy in January.

After Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb departed the race in mid-February, DeFrancisco appeared to be the front-runner for the GOP nod. But Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro reconsidered and opted to run for governor, shaking up the Republican nomination process. 

Molinaro gained momentum and racked up several endorsements from Republican county chairs. This week, seven chairs who initially supported DeFrancisco withdrew their endorsement and backed Molinaro instead. 

On Wednesday, DeFrancisco announced that he wouldn't be "actively campaigning" for governor. 

There has been plenty of interest in the 50th Senate District race long before DeFrancisco's final decision to not seek re-election. Two Democrats, DeWitt town councilor Joe Chiarenza and biology teacher John Mannion, are running for their party's nomination. Several Republicans have been mentioned as possible candidates, but none have formally announced they are running. 

The seat could play a critical role in the fight for majority control in the state Senate. Republicans will look to retain the seat and control of the chamber. But in a district with nearly the same number of active Democratic and GOP voters, Democrats view it as a pickup opportunity. 

Scott Reif, a spokesman for the Senate Republicans, said they expect to have a strong candidate in the 50th district race. 

"The last thing anyone wants — including Senator DeFrancisco — is for this seat to be controlled by the New York City Democrats," Reif said. "If they take control of the Senate, taxes go up, spending goes up and upstate gets nothing. We are confident we will retain this seat in November." 

If DeFrancisco ran again, he would have been a formidable incumbent. He has more than $1 million in his campaign accounts and a long record that members of both parties respect. The last time he had a Democratic opponent was 2010. He had a Green Party opponent in 2012 and ran unopposed in 2014 and 2016. 

While he would have a major advantage over any opponent, DeFrancisco is ready to move on. 

"It's time for someone else to step up and hopefully they'll step with a new governor in place," he said. 

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