Greener Pastures Outside of Albany, In View of Some Legislators

ALBANY, N.Y. -- State lawmakers don't have to run for re-election this year, but many elected officials in the Assembly and Senate are eyeing the exits, running for locally elected positions back in their home districts.

Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin is running for Rensselaer County Executive. State Sen. George Latimer is running for Westchester County Executive. State Sen. Phil Boyle seeks to become sheriff of Suffolk County, and several New York City lawmakers have launched campaigns for City Council, which is an increasingly popular destination for former state lawmakers.

Assemblyman Mickey Kearns is running for Erie County Clerk. A supporter of term limits for the Legislature, Kearns says it's about finding a new challenge in a different public office.

"I think there should be a beginning and an end when it comes to Albany and I'm looking forward to new opportunities," said Kearns, D-Buffalo.

There's the travel factor. The trip from Western New York can be an especially long one and lawmakers spend up to six months traveling back and forth during the legislative session. Kearns says he's made the trip for about 13 years.

Then there's the desire to actually get something done -- an attractive proposition for any legislator like McLaughlin who has toiled in the minority.

"It's because with executive authority, you can get a lot of things done and you can help people on a direct day-to-day basis," said McLaughlin, R-Melrose. "Being in the Legislature's great, but you're one of a body. You can't come here in and say, 'this is what we're doing.' You have to convince, in our case, 150 people."

Not mentioned is the fact lawmakers haven't received a pay increase since 1999. Lawmakers earn a base salary of $79,500 and many of the local level positions pay more.

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