House Politics, Lakeside

BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE—At a conference center nestled along the shores of a picturesque lake, a room of Democratic officials received potential candidates to replace John McHugh in Congress.

"We've been pleasantly surprised with the candidates that have come through so far," Sean Hennessey, the Jefferson County chairman, told me after a lunch of sandwiches and cheese ravioli.

There are two buildings in use. I'm sitting now in a log-walled lodge where a massive stand-alone fireplace anchors a room filled with Adirondack chairs and a grand piano, opening onto a porch. Brian McGrath, a New York attorney who grew up in the district is going over some papers, talking about the money he has raised through his Web site with some local party members who are the designated greeters. I'm parked at a loft looking down on them all. A reporter from News 10 NOW is outside.

The second building is a few yards down a gravel road. I wasn't supposed to go inside, but did while the party officials were on their lunch break. It's filled with captains chairs arranged in a three-walled square. In addition to O'Neill and the 11 chairs of the various counties in the district, there are officials from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sitting in on the interviews.

Danny Francis is currently in the turkey shoot. McGrath is on deck. After him are Stu Brody and Bill Owens. Hennessey said that the officials already spoke to eight candidates. Mike Oot withdrew from consideration. A late addition to the lineup is Nancy Orogio, who submitted paperwork to the state party rather than the regional party chairs.

A second round of interviews is expected to start in about two hours, Hennessey said, and balloting will begin after dinner. House Politics, Lakeside