ALBANY—They really don't want Darrel to go.
While he has been mentioned as a very strong candidate for the congressional seat John McHugh is set to vacate, State Senator Darrel Aubertine's colleagues in the State Senate do not want to defend their majority without an incumbent in his district, which is one of the more conservative in the state.
"I told him I'd have to chain his leg to the chair," said State Senator Diane Savino. She said that she flirted with the idea of running for Congress when Vito Fossella was falling from grace, but was delighted to stay once the Democrats had taken the chamber's majority.
State Senator Neil Breslin faced a similar situation when Representative Mike McNulty announced he would not seek re-election in 2008.
"My advice is that there are wonderfully dedicated people who have been part of a historic new Democratic gain in the Senate, and I will do everything possible to convince them that their future is here in the New York State Senate," Breslin said.
But also on their minds is how hard Senate Democrats fought to get Aubertine into the seat in a 2008 special election against Assemblyman Will Barclay. And then they managed to hold onto in the general election last November.
State Senator Marty Golden, a Republican known for colorful comments, told me, grinning, that Aubertine would be his "first choice" to replace McHugh. The 2010 State Senate election will likely be an epic battle.
Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, of course, wants to keep Aubertine in place. When asked Monday about the possibility Aubertine might run, Smith told reporters only, "I'm not worried." His spokesman, Austin Shafran, would only say that "any conversations between the two senators are private."
Drew Mangione, a spokesman for Aubertine, said that "the senator remains focused on Senate issues, but as far running for Congress he is still weighing his options."
"Certainly the senator is taking all things into consideration, including the opinions of his colleagues in the Senate, including the opinion of the majority leader," he added.