Republican Sen. George Maziarz of Newfane, a top-ranking member of the GOP conference in Albany, announced Sunday evening he would not seek re-election this year.

The surprise announcement, rumored during most of the weekend, comes as Senate Republicans face stiff political headwinds this cycle – including an effort from a coalition of labor groups and Democrats to oust them from power.

The retirement announcement also comes after reports that members of Maziarz’s office staff had quit in recent days.

In a statement, Maziarz, who was first elected in 1995 and has been a power-broker in Western New York GOP circles, said he no longer has the “passion and commitment” for a long re-election campaign.

“People will ask me why now and the simple answer is there is never the perfect time to step away. I had the honor of following the late John Daly into the State Senate,” Maziarz said in the statement.

“I remember him telling me when he left the Senate it was simply time for the next generation of leaders in the Legislature. After nearly two decades in office, I fully understand what he meant and feel that way today.”

The chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, Maziarz insisted in the statement he had been considering retirement from the chamber for the last five years which he called “no secret.”

But in May, things grew complicated for Maziarz when he was forced to deny a City and State report that the now-defunct corruption-busting Moreland Commission established – and then disbanded – by Gov. Andrew Cuomo had documents indicating that he led the state in unspecified expenditures from his campaign account.

According to the report, Maziarz shelled out more than $140,000 in campaign funds over a six-year period without identifying what exactly he purchased.

City and State said Moreland documents indicated Maziarz the unitemized campaign expenses appeared in campaign filings with the state Board of Elections between 2008 and 2013. The $140,000+ averaged out to more than $23,000 a year – or nearly $2,000 a month.

It’s expected that North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt will be the preferred Republican candidate to replace Maziarz on the ballot.

Maziaarz had faced a primary this September from Gia Arnold of Holley, whose campaign is largely focused on repeal of the SAFE Act.

He also was facing a general election challenge from Niagara Falls attorney Johnny Destino, who lost to the senator in the 2012 GOP primary. Since then, Destino has switched his enrollment to the Democratic Party, and intended to challenge Maziarz in November on Row A.