BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Less than a year and a half into his first term as New York State Senator, Marc Panepinto announced Tuesday he will not run for re-election in November.
Citing health issues for a personal friend and law partner, family matters, a potential new rule on outside income and a personnel matter, Panepinto said he will focus on his law practice and his family rather than seek re-election.
“For reasons both personal and professional, I am not seeking re-election in the New York State Senate,” Panepinto said.
The state Senator won the November 2014 election with just 34 percent of the vote, as the populace was split between the Democrat and incumbent Mark Grisanti and Republican Kevin Stocker.
Panepinto’s press conference focused in on the potential new rule that could ban outside income for New York State senators — Panepinto is an attorney — but took a turn when members of the media asked about staff turnover.
Panepinto admitted he hired a new chief of staff on Saturday, after his former chief of staff became involved in a “personnel matter.”
Panepinto declined to discuss it further.
“There has been some turnover and I am participating in that process,” Panepinto said, noting, however, there is no current ethics investigation.
Panepinto said he hasn’t endorsed anybody for the seat yet, but wants to see a Democrat take over the seat when he vacates it.
Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy said he was surprised by the announcement. But he said there’s likely more to the story.
“To say that his tenure has been very ethically challenged would be an understatement,” Langworthy said. “When you look at the career of Sen. Panepinto, it’s had a cloud over it from the beginning. Marc Panepinto was elected with roughly 35 percent of the vote in a very strange four-way campaign. He never enjoyed a majority of support of voters in his district, and now it looks like he’s leaving office with a cloud over his head as well.
“The timing certainly is suspect,” he added. “And I’m sure there will be some facts that come out that we don’t know about yet.”
Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Jeremy Zellner said the party two weeks ago endorsed Panepinto to run again in November.
He said he feels it’s the correct choice given the current circumstance and the importance of the seat.
“It’s a seat that the whole state of New York will be watching on election night,” Zellner said. “We want to put forth the strongest candidate for our district and we want to win that seat and keep it in democratic hands come November.”
Zellner said he wasn’t sure about what he called rumors surrounding Panepinto’s office.
“I don’t really know what’s happening,” Zellner said. “In this business, it’s hard to respond to rumors because you hear them every day about all kinds of things. But I think there is a process that will work itself out. The senator mentioned something about some kind of staff situation. If there is an investigation, I’m sure we’ll hear more about it.”
Zellner also released the following statement that read in part:
“The Erie County Democratic Committee will now move forward with a careful, inclusive nominating process in order to select the strongest possible candidate to represent the 60th Senate District at a time of great challenges and opportunities for our region and our state.”