ALBANY—Let the mental chess game regarding who might run to replace Representative John McHugh, and how the process may go, begin.
I just spoke with John Conklin, a spokesman for the State Board of Elections, who hashed out a few scenarios for the actual vote–depending on what McHugh and David Paterson do next:
(1) Paterson could call a special election to fill the seat, as he did in the race to replace Kirsten Gillibrand earlier this year. He would issue a formal proclamation calling for the referendum, and then officials would have 30 to 40 days to hold the election. Paterson could do this at any time after McHugh formally resigns.
(2) If McHugh were to resign quickly and Paterson opted not to call a special election, the normal procedures for an election this fall would be followed, Conklin said. The first day for candidates to begin circulating nominating petitions (they need 1,250 valid signatures) is June 9; they are due on July 16. If, say, McHugh didn't resign in a timely fashion, there's no firm cut-off date from which a general election would not be possible, Conklin said, but logistically it would have to be toward the beginning of the signature period.
(3) Even if the normal process for a fall election were taking place, Paterson could technically still call a special election. In this (admittedly unlikely) scenario, both elections would go forward. That would be interesting.
The distinction between a special election and a general election is particularly important because it determines how the candidates are chosen. If a special election is called, a confab of the county party chairs selects the candidates, and party officials may choose different candidates than voters would in a primary.
For example, the process for a special election might break against Republican Assemblywoman DeDe Scozzafava, who I'm hearing as a potential candidate. She supports same-sex marriage, a position that might cause Republican officials to balk and would likely cost her the Conservative Party line.
(There are about 46,000 more enrolled Republicans in the district than Democrats.)
Some people have floated State Senator Betty Little as a Republican candidate (she was passed over in the race to replace Gillibrand), but when I ran into her in the halls she said she wasn't interested.
Two other Republicans I heard mentioned were State Senator Joe Griffo and Assemblyman Will Barclay.
On the Democratic side, two names that were immediately mentioned were State Senator Darrel Aubertine and Assemblywoman Addie Russell, who replaced when he left for the Senate.
Russell is far to the left of Aubertine (for example, Aubertine does not support same-sex marriage) and is expecting to give birth to a child sometime this summer. Mark Pacilio, Russell's chief of staff, told me by phone that "she just hasn't considered this opportunity yet, and I think it's important to consider everything. This is literally less than three hours old."
I cornered Aubertine at a luncheon and asked him if he would be interested.
"I'm certainly happy for Congressman McHugh," he said. "I think he's the right fit for that job, and I have developed a rapport with the congressman over the past number of years since I was on the county board. So, I'm certainly pleased that he is where he is, and you know, I always keep my options open."
If Aubertine left, his Senate seat would be pivotal for both parties, since the majority in the chamber is slim. The same case could be made for Griffo.
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