He joined the New York State Assembly in 1966 but only stayed one term, moving to the New York State Senate in 1968.
Present almost lost his 1992 re-election campaign for the state senate to his Democratic opponent Nancy Bargar after machine ballots showed Bargar ahead by 900 votes. However, after counting absentee ballots and performing a machine recount, Present was declared the winner by 190 votes. Present was hurt in the general election by having Republican Assemblyman John W. Hasper win nine percent of the vote as the Conservative Party nominee. Hasper lost the Republican primary to Present in September of 1992. Bargar ran again in 1994 and lost; she also ran for the seat after Patricia McGee's death but lost decisively to Catharine Young.
Shortly after his election scare in 1992 he was appointed deputy majority leader of the state senate. Present was closely allied with Rockefeller Republican Ralph J. Marino during his time as senator. In 1994, after the Republican Revolution saw George Pataki elected governor against Marino's wishes, Marino was ousted as majority leader in favor of Joseph Bruno and Present removed himself from the deputy majority leader position.
Present died in 1998 in Bemus Point, New York while still in office.