The historical perspectives can be endless to describe Joe Lentol's career in the state Assembly: He's been in office since the Nixon administration, the speaker of the state Assembly was Republican Perry Duryea, the Vietnam war was yet to formally end, it was the same year as the Roe v. Wade ruling.
But now Lentol, who once took a meeting with the final Tammany boss Carmine DeSapio, has lost his Democratic primary to activist challenger Emily Gallagher.
Lentol conceded defeat in a statement issued Wednesday morning after a raft of absentee ballots gave Gallagher the lead. And the statement itself was seemingly a valedictory one for Lentol and his career.
"It's decided: The voters in the 50th Assembly District voted for change," he said. "It's been a great honor to represent the people of North Brooklyn in the Assembly. I'm proud of my years of service, delivering important legislation and always attending to constituents' needs. My successor will be busy as the new Assembly Member. I wish her well as she faces the enormous challenges ahead."
Lentol is the longtime chairman of the powerful Assembly Codes Committee, a panel that often sees a range of key measures for sentencing, criminal justice and law enforcement issues pass through it.
Lentol is not alone among incumbents in the state Assembly losing their party primaries. A confluence of events are shaping the intraparty contests among Democrats amid the politicla crosscurrents of a destabilzing pandemic, economic crisis and a push for police accountability following the death of George Floyd.
And Lentol's loss comes amid a broader generational shift in Albany and Capitol where change can appear glacial and the legislative sessions often like Groundhog's Day. Older lawmakers are being replaced not just by fresh faces, but younger lawmakers who bring different perspectives, worldviews and experiences to the fore.