In terms of political impact, it was a routine announcement in a Syracuse area State Assembly district: A republican declaring his candidacy. But as YNN's Bill Carey reports, in 2012, a contest for a state legislative seat has become a somewhat unusual event.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- “I would like to introduce you to the man who's going to beat Sam Roberts. Ladies and gentlemen, John Sharon from the Town of DeWitt,” said Onondaga County Republican Chairman Tom Dadey.
It will be a rematch this fall in the Assembly district that covers parts of Syracuse, DeWitt, Salina and Onondaga.
Two years ago, in a four way race, republican John Sharon lost his battle against democrat Sam Roberts. Now, Sharon says, people have seen Roberts at work and want change.
Sharon said, “I think I offer them something quite different from Mr. Roberts. And if they're going to come out and vote, it is a presidential year, and if I can get their attention, then I think that they'll pull the lever for me.”
It has become surprisingly rare to see a state legislative race in 2012. Many incumbents have no opponent on the ballot.
Democrats, for example, have taken a pass on running against several republican Assemblyman, including Gary Finch of Auburn. State Senator John DeFrancisco also will run unopposed. Several democrats also get a pass, including State Senator Dave Valesky.
Party leaders say it’s just very tough to find to challenge an office holder.
“Because it is a sacrifice. It's a sacrifice to your career. It's a sacrifice to your family. There's a lot involved. Door to door campaigning, raising money, being at events, missing your kids' events. It's a challenge between now and November 6th to run for office,” Dadey said.
And the fact is, when it comes to state legislative contests, incumbents, overwhelmingly, are re-elected.
“In New York, in the legislature, it has been 90 percent or more since 1890. It is not a recent phenomena. What has changed, over time, is the percentage of incumbents who run for re-election,” Jeff Stonecash, a professor at Syracuse University.
Meaning once someone goes to Albany, it often becomes a lifetime position.
Another key factor being considered by the parties, as they make their decisions on which races to run, are the shapes of the new state legislative districts.
Lawmakers redrew district lines to meet findings of the 2010 census. In the State Senate, republicans gave their incumbents the edge. In the Assembly, democrats helped their incumbents, like Sam Roberts.
John Sharon is facing challenges, but at Syracuse University, political scientist Jeff Stonecash says it is not a lost cause.
Stonecashsaid, “If you've worked your community, you have a chance.”
Democratic Assemblyman Sam Roberts offered no public comment on the announcement by republican John Sharon in the State Assembly race.