Robbins, a Salem Township Republican, has served in the Legislature for 32 years. He had been a representative when he was elected in 1990 to the Senate, representing the district that includes Crawford and Mercer counties and parts of Butler and Lawrence counties.
He said Tuesday his age played a part in his retirement.
“I will be 70 (in August). It’s time,” he said. “I am very grateful to the people of the 50th District. I have extremely enjoyed it.”
As far as who may succeed him, Robbins said he “has heard of a number of people ... there may be a lot of names pop up.”
The district’s boundaries are changing next year, which may bring new names to the forefront. The 50th District in 2015 will include Crawford and Mercer counties, parts of Erie County from Edinboro to Corry and western Warren County.
Robbins’ advice to candidates? “Once you make the decision to get into the race, then run hard.” he said.
At least three names have surfaced immediately – two Republicans and one Democrat. The general election for Robbins’ seat takes place this fall, while the winner will begin his or her term on Jan. 1, 2015.
Rep. Greg Lucas, Edinboro, R-5th District announced Tuesday he will be a candidate.
State Rep. Michele Brooks, Jamestown, R-17th District, on Thursday announced her intent to seek the Republican nomination.
Michael Muha, a Democrat from Hermitage, announced his candidacy in July.
Lucas said he has a lot of strong support in Crawford County.
“Mercer County will be a hard sell,” he said, but he is confident that he can win the nomination, noting he spent $20,000 in his last campaign and has $40,000 for his Senate campaign.
“Bob has a lifetime of service for our area. He’s earned our respect,” Brooks said. “He’s represented our area with distinction and devotion and has been a very strong voice in the Senate for this area, and we’ll have hard shoes to fill because of his seniority and he’s just so passionate about what he does.
Crawford County GOP Chairman Jody Leech said, “He deserves a long and happy retirement, but it’s sad for us. He’s been a good friend and great senator to the county and all of us.”
As to who may run for the position, Leech said she has had “several phone calls. There will be all kinds of people on both sides I’m sure.”
Ginny Steese Richardson, Mercer County Republican Committee chairman, agreed with Leech’s assessment.
“We have been fortunate,” she said of Robbins’ service, noting she was glad that once he finished his military service that included two tours of duty in Vietnam, he “came home to make it a better place to live.” She said one big advantage of having Robbins in the Senate was his leadership.
Richardson praised Robbins for his “dedication and always looking out for the people” and that “it’s going to be a challenge to whoever steps into the position to fill his shoes.”
Charlie Rice, chairman of the Mercer County Democratic Committee, said he is expecting a battle for the seat. Rice said he is certain he will be in contact with people from Erie and Crawford counties about the position in the future.
Diane Adsit, chairman of the Crawford County Democratic Committee, didn’t have any information on the possibility of a Crawford County Democrat running for the seat.
One other potential Democratic candidate from Mercer County is Ken Ammann, a former Mercer County commissioner.
“I did think I would be interested,” Ammann said Tuesday, noting he had previously said “if Bob decides to retire, I would give it some thought. I have not made a decision. I’m thinking about it. I’m somewhat interested.”
Gary Clark, Robbins’ district office manager, said, “In the 17 years I worked with him, I can say he was and is among the finest men I have ever known. He always put the needs of his constituents first.
“Not everyone agreed with Bob, but they respected and liked him,” Clark said. “He crossed over party lines to make things happen.”