ALBANY—The candidate-selection process for the yet-to-be-called special election to replace Representative John McHugh is turning into something of a game of chicken.
Republicans have convened four meetings around the sprawling district, according to Franklin County Republican Chairman Jim Ellis, at which more than 300 party members interacted with the nine candidates vying for the seat, which is expected to become vacant when McHugh, a Republican, is confirmed as the Obama administration's secretary of the Army.
The Republican county chairs are scheduled to meet Wednesday. This morning, Democrats put out a press release saying they met Friday to extend their solicitation of candidate materials by another week.
"We are tentatively scheduled for this Wednesday. Whether or not it results in balloting is not determined," Ellis told me. The Republican county chairs within the district will officially determine their party's candidate after a special election is called.
These preliminary processes are gravy anyway. And the Republicans think the Democrats, in particular, are just going through the motions.
"If you look at it, if they've extended their deadline by another week, the reason they're going to the 24th is that it's two days after we meet. So we might just play that game and say, ‘Eh, we'll just have a general discussion,'" Ellis said. "We already made our assumption early on that [Darrel] Aubertine was the candidate. We're going to prepare for the strongest candidate, and he appears to be the strongest candidate."
He then attacked Aubertine for not ending the leadership struggle in the State Senate. Aubertine has not stated his intentions publicly, but is facing pressure to stay in the Senate.
In the release, Democrats said their extension was "due to overwhelming interest."
"We figured, we've got a few days, so why not just open up the window a bit?" Sean Hennessey, the Jefferson County Democratic chairman, told me. "The Republicans' process had no bearing on it at all."
He said there have been roughly a dozen submissions so far, and that the Democratic chairs will converse Tuesday night about when the potential candidates can be interviewed. It's unclear when that will proceed, and when someone might be named.