‘Colonel’ Larkin of KJ Announces Retirement From NY Senate

ALBANY -
Sen. Bill Larkin at a meeting with Agudath Israel activists in March 2017 in Albany. (Agudath Israel of America)

Sen. Bill Larkin, who represented Kiryas Joel and was one of the Senate’s most beloved members, announced Thursday he would not seek reelection this year, the fifth Republican to announce retirement in a week.

Larkin, 90, made his announcement in Newburgh. A combat veteran of World War II and the Korean War, the man known affectionately in the halls of the Capitol as “the colonel” has represented parts of the Hudson Valley for nearly 40 years, first in the state Assembly and then the Senate.

Lawmakers from both parties praised his decades of service for his nation and New York. He was a friend of both the village of Kiryas Joel and the Orthodox community and attentive to their needs, advocates said.

“William Larkin is a genuine American hero and has been a friend to our community for decades,” Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, director of New York government relations for Agudah Israel of America, told Hamodia. “We will miss his voice, his wisdom, and most of all, his staunch advocacy for so many important causes.”

Tom Basile, a councilman from Stony Point, is expected to announce a run for the seat as a Republican at a rally this Saturday. Larkin, according to a source who spoke to Hamodia, will endorse him at the event.

Basile, a published author and military veteran, began reaching out to Kiryas Joel officials and Orthodox groups on Thursday. “He’s an impressive guy,” one of the people who spoke to him said.

Assemblyman James Skoufis, a Democrat representing Orange County, said he would decide in the coming weeks whether he would run for Larkin’s seat.

“Today is about honoring Senator Larkin,” Skoufis said in a statement. “Over the next two weeks, I’ll discuss my options with family, supporters, and key stakeholders before making a decision about this year’s election.”

Skoufis is a longtime opponent of Kiryas Joel, siding with the village’s foes in virtually every legislative battle. He has also been a vocal opponent of any legislation to ease the financial burden of yeshivos.

Four other GOP senators have recently announced plans to retire. Three of them are in reliably Republican districts, with the exception of Larkin and Tom Croci of Long Island. With the balance of power between Republicans and Democrats at a tight 32-31 margin, Democrats are predicting they may wrest Senate control from Republicans this November.