BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Congressman Brian Higgins announced on Sunday that he will resign from Congress after representing the city of Buffalo and Western New York in Washington since 2005.
As News 4 reported last week, Higgins taking the job as president of Shea’s Performing Arts Center in downtown Buffalo is a “done deal.” His resignation will take effect in the first week of February 2024. Higgins denied that he had anything officially set up yet.
Higgins cited “a rough patch” in the country and government as a reason he decided to leave government.
“Congress is not the institution that I went to 19 years ago. It’s a very different place today. We’re spending more time doing less and the American people aren’t being served,” Higgins said Sunday. “There was a time where leadership could discern what was serious and what was not. Unfortunately, those days are over.”
Higgins, a 64-year-old Democrat, currently represents New York’s 26th district in the House of Representatives. The district makes up much of Western New York, including Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Lackawanna, Tonawanda and North Tonawanda. Previously, Higgins had served much of Chautauqua County, including Jamestown and Dunkirk, before redistricting in 2013.
Higgins was re-elected to a two-year term in 2022 and leaves in the midst of his ninth term in office.
Higgins was vital in the transformation of Canalside in downtown Buffalo, getting millions of dollars funding to revitalize the area. He had also worked to increase flight safety following the crash of Flight 3407 in Clarence in 2009, which killed 50 people. He was also an avid supporter of medical funding, bringing jobs to Western New York and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and for biomedical research.
More recently, he has advocated for gun reform following the Tops supermarket mass shooting on May 14, 2022.
“Over the last 19 years, Congressman Brian Higgins has revolutionized the way the nation sees Buffalo. He has transformed our city’s waterfront, delivered historic investments for Western New York’s infrastructure and transportation networks, secured critical funding for our medical corridor and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, and served as a key conduit between businesses and the endless opportunities that exist across our region,” State Senator Tim Kennedy said in a statement Sunday morning. “His work in Washington and Western New York will be remembered for what it was: strategic, innovative, and at its core, always focused on why we do what we do as public servants: help people.”
Kennedy, who represents South Buffalo in New York’s State Senate, is one of the names being considered to fill Higgins’ seat, as News 4 previously reported. Governor Kathy Hochul will need to call for a special election to fill the seat within 10 days of the seat becoming vacant. A special election could be within 70-90 days from his official resignation. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz are also interested in the position, according to political analysts.
“Brian Higgins defined what public service is all about. The projects he took on against all odds will be part of his legacy. Friends since his days on the Buffalo City Council and especially during our days in Congress, I know he will take Shea’s to the next level,” Hochul said Sunday.
Shea’s, the top performing arts entertainment facility in Buffalo and the crown jewel of Buffalo’s Theatre District, has been without a president since 2022, when Michael Murphy was removed during a shakeup of the venue’s leadership.
Higgins is a member of the Ways and Means committee as well as the Homeland Security committee.
“I didn’t go to Washington 19 years ago to change the world. I went there to change my community and I think that we have in many, many ways,” Higgins said. “From downtown Buffalo, the waterfronts, the Buffalo River, the Lake Erie shoreline, the Outer Harbor, the Inner Harbor, and have promoted a quality of life that has been recognized internationally.”
“I think a new energy, a new sense of purpose will be good for Buffalo and Western New York.”
You can watch Higgins’ full announcement from Sunday in the media player above.
Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.