Republican leaders say Rich Funke's name recognition and journalism background, combined with his familiarity with state issues and his record of community service make him the ideal candidate for State Senate. Funke announced last week that he'll seek the GOP endorsement to run for the 55th District seat against Democratic incumbent Ted O'Brien.
The race could be crucial in deciding which party controls the chamber.
Funke, a former anchor for WHEC news, said at the press conference that he wants to push for relief from taxes and from unfunded state mandates. He also said he wants to eliminate some business regulations, get more state aid for local projects, and repeal the SAFE Act — Governor Andrew Cuomo's signature gun control legislation.
"I am not a politician," Funke said. "I've had my career and I loved every minute of it. I'm not interested in going to Albany to be something. I'm going to Albany to do something."
In response to Funke's announcement, O'Brien says he's delivered tax relief to middle-class families and businesses, and secured job-creating investments in the district.
"I'm proud of my record and am confident that the hardworking men and women of Monroe and Ontario counties will re-elect me this fall," he says.
Democrats have an enrollment advantage in the 55th District. And in 2012, O'Brien beat Republican Sean Hanna in a contentious race. But Republicans held the seat for approximately 15 years before that, although the district had slightly different boundaries.
Democrats hold a slim majority of the Senate's seats, but the chamber is controlled by a coalition of five breakaway Democrats — the Independent Democratic Conference — and the Republican minority. Democrats want to hang on to the 55th District seat so they're closer to a true majority, and Republicans want it so they can keep control of the chamber.