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Panepinto announces he won't run for reelection in state Senate

Avery Schneider/WBFO News

State Senator Marc Panepinto will not seek re-election in the 60th District, even after securing the Democratic Party's endorsement for another term.Panepinto made the surprise announcement late Tuesday. He explained that a partner in his private law firm, Frank Dolce, is battling cancer, creating a need to put his political career on hold.

“I’ve got to put my family first and my law family above the voters of the 60th Senate District and be able to re-focus my activity back here at the law firm,” Panepinto said.

Panepinto denied that he or anyone else in his office is under any ethics investigation, though he did mention an unspecified personnel matter. He confirmed that Chris Savage became his new chief of staff last weekend, simply explaining "we made a change."

The freshman Democrat also cited a movement toward restricting state lawmakers' outside income in explaining his decision. He said he relies on his law firm income to support his family.

Though Panepinto took few questions from reporters, he did seem to have some misgivings about vacating his position in Albany.

"At this moment, we're at a critical juncture in our state's legislative history. We're on the cusp of passing paid family medical leave. We're on the cusp of passing a $15 minimum wage."

Panepinto won his Senate seat in 2014, defeating Republic Kevin Stocker and Independent Mark Grisanti. He said he notified the party chairman 30 minutes before making his announcement.

"Me getting out of the way now enables the party to coalesce behind a candidate who can hold this seat and win this seat," Panepinto said.

"Now, to maintain that legacy of fighting for working people, I'm going to help whoever comes after me to be the Democrat to maintain this district."

"I took the endorsement of the Democratic Party and at that time when I got the endorsement two weeks ago, this wasn't on the table. I wasn't sure what Frank was doing and things have changed and I made that decision."

Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner issued a statement late Tuesday, saying "We regretfully accept Senator Panepinto's decision not to seek reelection in November. Under the given circumstances we agree it is the right choice, and certainly wish Marc well and thank him for his service to our community."

Zellner goes on to say "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."