ALBANY—Republicans are continuing to beat the drum in the 20th Congressional District, complaining that David Paterson didn’t immediately call for a special election to replace Kirsten Gillibrand in the House, even though it would be nearly impossible to hold an election that soon.
Today, the National Republican Congressional Committee issued a statement from Republicans in the New York House delegation (all three of them!) calling for an immediate election because “the residents of upstate New York deserve to have a member of Congress representing their needs and addressing their concerns.” In addition, after meeting Wednesday with R.N.C. Chairman Michael Steele, the Republican candidate, Jim Tedisco, said he wanted an election called as soon as possible, adding, “Like justice, democracy delayed is democracy denied.”
The stated reason for the urgency is that constituents are unrepresented on important business before Congress.
What’s unstated, but fairly apparent, is that a delay favors Democrat Scott Murphy, who is much less well known to voters than Tedisco. Liz also points out the return of the snowbirds is also likely to be an advantage for the Democratic candidate.
In response to the criticism, Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook issued this statement:
In order to determine the most appropriate time to ensure the fullest participation in the special election for the 20th Congressional District, Governor Paterson’s counsel has reached out to both candidates, and is consulting with the Board of Elections and good government groups. While it is Governor Paterson’s intention to have the election as soon as possible, it is also incumbent on the Governor’s Office to select a date that will give as many people as possible the opportunity to vote while not disrupting the March 18 village elections and comply with election law.
It should be noted that while two candidates have been selected informally, both will be required to submit official certificates of nomination following the issuance of the Governor’s proclamation.
The point about village elections, which take place March 18, is substantive. Bob Brehm, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections, explained that in the near future, voting machines will be tied up for the village votes. Due to problems with jurisdiction, voting hours and staffing, it would not be possible to schedule a special election for the same day, which is what would happen if Paterson were to declare a special election now.
Brehm said that’s because that there’s a timeline beginning the day the date is set, and that it would be impossible to start printing ballots and testing machines until all the candidates are named, and independent petitions to appear on the ballot are not due until 16 days after the proclamation.
That leaves only between 14 and 24 days to set up voting machines. Brehm said it usually takes a week to reset machines and certify results from village elections.
Also, Sue Montgomery Corey, chair of the Essex County Democratic Committee, told me yesterday that there are real concerns about weather in some of the northern reaches of the district.
Paterson isn’t required by law to call for an election before July 2010, although he said he’ll set the date for this one “soon.” So far, the time that the governor has waited is shorter than the period Eliot Spitzer waited before calling a special election for a the State Senate seat vacated in 2008 by Jim Wright.
All things considered, it doesn’t look like there will be an election before April.