Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, announced Monday that he will not seek re-election at the end of his term.
“I have decided not to seek re-election in 2020 and will retire from the senate when my current term, my 17th, expires at the end of the year,” Seward said in a media release. “While I have responded well to cancer treatments, my physicians have advised me that treatments will continue for the foreseeable future limiting my ability to maintain the rigorous schedule needed to campaign for re-election. This is the right decision for my health, my family, and the people of the 51st Senate District.”
Seward emphasized his decision is “in no way related” to majority or minority standing in the legislature.
“I have effectively served under both scenarios and have always fought for the best interests of my constituents no matter the party in power, which is exactly what I will continue to do for the remainder of my term,” he said.
“Throughout my time in the state senate I have focused on improving the lives of those I represent — advancing legislation, securing state grants for key community needs, and working directly with constituents in need of help,” Seward said. “I have been blessed to work with many great individuals both at the Capitol and at home and will cherish those strong partnerships”
Seward was first elected to the state senate in 1986 and began his career as chairman of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee. He serves as ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee.
Seward previously served as chairman of the Senate Task Force on Volunteer Emergency Services, where he helped establish a low-interest loan program for the capital needs and equipment purchases of volunteer fire departments and emergency squads. He also served as chairman of the Senate Task Force on State and Local Emergency Preparedness following the terror attacks Sept. 11, 2001.
An advocate for business growth, Seward has been a proponent of local initiatives, delivering state grants to support improvement projects throughout the region. Among his achievements was enactment of the “Power for Jobs” program, which helped retain and create thousands of New York jobs, according to the release.
A supporter of local libraries, Seward obtained state grants to facilitate technological and accessibility upgrades to help libraries evolve with the times and continue to serve the public, according to the release.
Seward was an original sponsor of the STAR school tax relief program and championed numerous property tax relief proposals, including the property tax cap, and secured state aid for local school districts to offset rising taxes and expand technology and special education initiatives, the release said.
As a member of the Senate Higher Education Committee, Seward won state aid to assist with major capital improvements at SUNY Cobleskill, Cortland and Oneonta.
Throughout his tenure, Seward advanced key agriculture bills and helped support the New York Rollover Protection rebate program. He is a Distinguished 4-H Alumnus, the first documented New York honoree listed in the national directory, according to the release.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in the state senate and sincerely thank the voters for their support and confidence,” Seward said. “The sacred trust bestowed in me by those I have had the privilege to represent has always been foremost on my mind.”
A native of Otsego County, Seward attended Oneonta public schools and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Hartwick College. In 1999, the college honored Seward with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, according to the release. He also studied at the Nelson Rockefeller Institute of SUNY Albany.
“I wish Sen. Seward and his family all the best as he focuses on his health,” said Jim Barber, an Otsego County candidate for New York's 51st state senate district. “I want to thank him for his more than three decades of public service and hope to build upon the work that he has done to bring resources to our rural communities.”
Barber, a Democrat, is the only announced candidate to attempt to win Seward's seat, but more candidates are expected to announce their intentions now that Seward has announced his. However, Seward said he will continue to work for his region, even if it is not as a senator.
“My commitment to our region will continue and I look forward to further service in the future,” he said.
Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.