Maybe there’s something in the water that Republicans have been drinking these days, but the party’s would-be Senate candidates are dropping like flies.

Sen. George Maziarz seems to have sparked a trend by filing petition signatures to run on the GOP line in the fall and then declining the nomination at the very last minute, sending party leaders scrambling to find a replacement. No fewer than four other Republicans have done the exact same thing this week. (Monday was the deadline for accepting or declining nominations).

In at least one case, the candidate’s decision to bow out appears to be a strategic move by the Senate Republicans in hopes of finding someone stronger to run for a seat they very much need to keep – especially now that they have four empty seats to defend.

Anthony Senft, a Conservative Islip town board member who was supposed to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Lee Zeldin as he seeks to oust Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop, announced suddenly that he has terminated his candidacy and officially declined the GOP, Conservative and Independence Party lines.

“While difficult, my family and I reached this decision over the weekend and I informed Senate Leader Dean Skelos and the local party chairmen of my decision,” Senft said in a statement released earlier today.

“…The recent criminal acts of dumping at a Town of Islip park require that I shift my focus from running a senate campaign and direct my leadership and energy into the complete remediation and redevelopment of our park. As a Councilman for the Town of Islip I, along with my fellow Town Board Members, will continue to work for the constituents including working to repair the damage caused by those who have committed environmental crimes in our community. I will help ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

The dumping scandal to which Senft refers was really starting to take a toll on his candidacy – especially since he’s the town board’s liaison to the parks department and his erstwhile Democratic opponent, Adrienne Esposito, is an environmental activist and has been using the issue as a rallying cry for her campaign.

According to Newsday, GOP leaders say Islip Supervisor Tom Croci, who is just back from a yearlong Navy Reserve stint in Afghanistan, is their first choice to replace Senft on the ballot.

Keep in mind: The Republicans also have to defend the seat vacated by former Sen. Chuck Fuschillo, who made a surprise announcement on New Year’s Eve that he would be departing the Senate – effective immediately – to take a lucrative post in the private sector.

Also on Long Island, another veteran member of the GOP conference, Sen. Carl Marcellino, is suddenly facing a challenge from Sea Cliff Mayor Bruce Kennedy, who has been a registered Republican for his entire adult life, but just recently received the Nassau County Democratic Committee’s nomination to run and will be switching parties.

Kennedy was supposed to be the GOP candidate for the seat held by Democratic Assemblyman Charles Lavine. But Republican leaders withdrew their support of him after Conservative Party leaders raised objections that the mayor had officiated two same sex marriages (in keeping with the law, by the way) and refusing to endorse repeal of the 2011 Marriage Equality Act. Kennedy told a local newspaper that he was upset Marcellino had not spoken up in his defense and he felt “abandoned” by the party.

In nearby Queens, two Republicans declined to challenge sitting Democrats. Former NYC Council Minority Leader Tom Ognibene, who was also briefly the 2010 running mate for gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino (until he lost the GOP primary to former Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards), circulated petitions to run against Democratic Sen. Joe Addabbo, but then declined the nomination.

During a brief telephone interview this afternoon, Ognibene insisted he wasn’t a mere placeholder candidate, saying he had been willing to run if the Senate GOP would have provided him with resources. But in the end, the leadership asked him to step aside in favor of an attorney named Ken Sullivan. Ognibene said he was happy to abdicate in favor of someone younger with more “energy,” saying it’s time for the “younger generation to step up.”

Also in Queens, Tim Furey, a Republican who had circulated petitions to challenge Sen. Tony Avella, declined the party’s nomination, a Queens source confirmed. Avella, of course, already has his hands full with a Democratic primary challenge from former NYC Comptroller John Liu, who has refused to drop his campaign even though the IDC – of which Avella is the newest member – has agreed to end its power-sharing deal with the GOP and re-join forces with the regular Democrats.

Further up the Hudson, the candidate Senate Republicans had hoped to run against Democratic Sen. George Latimer – PR executive Jean Maisano – filed petitions, but subsequently decided against taking the plunge. The GOP tried and failed to get some more familiar names to challenge Latimer, approaching former Yonkers Mayor and onetime US Senate candidate John Spencer and two-time, self-funding Senate candidate Bob Cohen, but neither was interested.

A Senate GOP source cautioned against reading too much into the phenomenon of candidates deciding not to take a shot at running this fall, insisting that it isn’t a chain reaction caused by the spate of bad news to hit the conference as of late – starting with the indictment of the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, Sen. Tom Libous, and gathering steam with the abrupt retirement announcement by Maziarz, whose campaign spending is under investigation by the US attorney’s office.

The Democrats, not surprisingly, say the GOP is in a tailspin, and things are only going to get worse from here. But the Republicans continue to insist this will be a strong year for them, and they are merely winnowing down their candidate list to a handful of strong contenders who can win if they have sufficient support and resources.