State Sen. George Onorato, a veteran Queens Democrat, won't seek reelection to the seat he has held since 1983, clearing the way for a run this fall by Assemblyman Michael Gianaris.
At 82, Onorato is the Senate Democrats' oldest member. His recent "no" vote on gay marriage made him vulnerable to a primary challenge, worrying party leaders who urged him to step aside, insiders said.
Senate Democrats were anxious to prevent a primary between Onorato and Gianaris, but just as interested in harnessing the assemblyman's prodigious fund-raising skills for their upcoming battle with the GOP for control of the chamber.
Gianaris, 39, was elected to the Assembly in 2000. He raised more than $2 million for a short-lived state attorney general run in 2006 and was the state Democratic Party's finance chairman in 2006.
He had been considering another attorney general attempt this fall.
"The Senate is where the battle has been joined in many ways," Gianaris said, explaining his decision.
"For better or worse, the fate of New York will be decided in there, and the reason I'm in public service is to roll up my sleeves and make government work for people. There's no better place to do that now."
Photo:State Sen. George Onorato Bates for News