WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY — December 15, 2019 — Republican State Chairman Nick Langworthy is certainly peppy. He’s quotable and energetic. There’s lots of activity. What’s missing is a message that his party can take to voters. And his slate of candidates is becoming more and more depleted.
In recent days, three GOP stalwarts have thrown in the towel, taking the total number of retirees to seven, largely in upstate districts thought to be safely Republican. Incumbent Sens. George Amedore, Betty Little and Michael Ranzenhofer announced they would not be candidates for reelection. All three are legislative heavyweights who made names for themselves as part of the generations-long Republican hold on the Senate majority. They passed bills, produced for their districts and held Democratic governors’ feet to the fire.
All that disappeared when Democrats took control of the Senate in 2018. The same rules that gave Republicans absolute control are now rendering them absolutely irrelevant. And there’s little realistic chance of a reversal. Demographics, ideology and strong performances by the Democrats make it highly unlikely that Republicans will recapture the Senate. No one likes to be permanently irrelevant. Hence the rush for the doors.
Demographics are life, politically. Expanding economies and populations downstate are overrunning dwindling upstate communities. There are fewer Republicans.
Ideology isn’t helping either. Republicans are sticking with a tax cut/service cut/abortion restrictions/pro-gun platform that’s been unchanged since the New Deal.
It doesn’t attract a lot of voters under 65.
Senate Dems had a plan and executed it. You may not like the rent regulation/abortion rights/immigrant friendly/progressive bandwagon, but they’ve kept their base happy and won over voters in suburban and upstate districts long in Republican hands.
Add in Donald Trump and there’s very little sunlight on the horizon for Republicans in New York.
In the face of these objective realities, Langworthy seems content to plow old ground.
In response to high health care costs, he would slash spending like Florida and Texas. And you can always attack the Democrats as radicals: “There are so many things that the left has done in its totalitarian control of the Capitol that are going to make the job of winning so much easier,” he declared recently.
Such pronouncements will make it even harder to keep the vacant Senate seats.
Upstate hospitals and nursing homes take a lot of downstate money to keep operating. Local voters who want to keep them open and operating at safe levels will have to look to Democrats. And swing voters, especially young ones, aren’t swayed by today’s version of red-baiting.
His sole effective argument is the attack on the Democratic control of Senate, Assembly and governor. A real opposition party with a platform remotely connected to the real-life problems of voters could make a dent. Even if a Republican return to power is unlikely, New York desperately needs an opposition party that can challenge the pride and insensitivity that often follows total partisan control of any government. Instead, Democrats are going to mount strong challenges in the nine upstate Senate districts without incumbents.
It’s a pretty dismal situation. It needs transformative leadership, not a rerun of Barry Goldwater talking points. Langworthy has ability and, as I said, he’s peppy. Peppy isn’t going to be enough.
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Richard Brodsky is a former state Assembly member.
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Original publication by Times-Union on December 15, 2019.