VICTOR — Assemblyman Brian Kolb’s political future turned cloudy on New Year’s Eve, when the 67-year-old Republican was charged with driving while intoxicated near his new Victor home.
Three days after that arrest, Kolb stepped down as Assembly Minority Leader, a position he’d held since 2009.
The next question, which Kolb had not speculated on publicly, was whether he’d seek another term in the Assembly representing the 131st District, which covers all of Ontario County as well as the northern half of Seneca County.
He answered that question Thursday afternoon.
In a statement, Kolb announced that he won’t seek another two-year term this November, throwing the seat open for other Republicans from Ontario and Seneca County.
Kolb has been in the Assembly since narrowly winning the seat in February 2000 over Democrat Sam Casella of Canandaigua. He has been re-elected nine times.
“After a great deal of consideration and discussions with my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election for the 131st Assembly District this fall,” he said in the statement. “I know that there are other avenues for me to pursue, future work to be done, and I have every intention of being an active member of the community and state that I love. It has been a tremendous privilege, both personally and professionally, to have served the people of the Finger Lakes region for the past two decades.
“I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt there is no higher honor than to have had the support of the men, women and families who call this area home. My career in Albany and tenure as Assembly minority leader would not have been possible without the love, patience and sacrifices of my family members, especially my wife, Lauren.”
Kolb thanked his legislative colleagues, especially those in the Assembly Minority Conference, “for everything they have given me over the years — their trust, their dedication, their collaborative spirit and their friendship.
“Twenty years ago, I came to the New York State Assembly by way of a special election and a 10-vote margin of victory. Looking back, it’s clear I was fortunate on election night, and I’ve been equally blessed every day since.”
Kolb did not address his DWI arrest in his statement. He is due back in court in early March as part of the legal proceedings, and he was not available for further comment as of Thursday afternoon.
Fellow Assembly Republicans praised Kolb’s work, including Assemblyman Brian Manktelow, R-130 of Lyons.
“For two decades, he’s represented his district well,” Manktelow said. “He was very helpful to me when I first came to Albany last year. As a new Assembly member, I appreciated his leadership and guidance. I’m sorry that he’s leaving the Assembly, but I respect his decision not to seek re-election.”
Will Barclay, the Oswego County Republican who replaced Kolb as Assembly minority leader, said it was “disappointing to hear the news that Assemblyman Brian Kolb will not seek re-election, but I will always appreciate his service to the people of the Finger Lakes and his unwavering commitment to the Assembly Minority Conference. It is a true testament to his abilities and leadership that he was overwhelmingly re-elected nine times by the people of his district, and that he was chosen as leader of our conference for 10 years. No one was more dedicated to our cause and our goals. The residents and businesses of Ontario and Seneca counties know that Brian worked every day to make their lives better and more prosperous.”
Barclay called Kolb a “trusted confidant and true friend to many of us. He will be greatly missed. On behalf of the entire Minority Conference, I’d like to thank him for his leadership and resolve. I wish him and his wife, Lauren, continued happiness as they begin a new journey.”
Added Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, R-132 of Corning: “It has been a great privilege to work with Brian for nearly a decade on behalf of the residents of the Finger Lakes region and the state of New York. He’s been a staunch advocate for the constituents he’s served for nearly 20 years. He was a dedicated and hardworking Leader for our Assembly Republican Conference. He is a great colleague and a great friend. Though he will certainly be missed.”
Assemblyman Gary Finch, R-Springport, whose district includes Cayuga County and who himself has decided against seeking another term, also extended praise to Kolb.
“He’s been successful in business, he was an outstanding educator and as the leader of our conference, he was a unifying force and a bell-clear voice for reform and good government,” he said. “Whatever he does next, he’ll make an impact and he’ll do it with style. I’m thankful for his years of service to the people of the state of New York. I’m thankful for the energy, optimism and tenacity he brought to the Republican Party. Mostly, I’m thankful for his friendship. Brian is as honest, trustworthy and loyal as they come. We came to Albany together. We’ll be retiring together. I’m thankful for all the great memories in between.”
Trisha Turner, chair of the Ontario County Republican Committee and a member of the state GOP leadership as well, could not be reached for comment Thursday on her reaction to Kolb’s decision and what’s next in the process of finding a replacement candidate.
Matt Miller of Canandaigua is seeking the Democratic party’s nomination in the race for the 131st Assembly seat, and so far he is the only Democratic candidate. The news that Kolb was not seeking another term was not a stunner to him.
“Brian Kolb’s recent announcement did not come as a surprise to us, as we’ve been preparing for all options,” he said Thursday afternoon. “We have been running our campaign since August and our message is being well received. New York-131 is ready for a change and we are prepared to make that happen.”