Governor: Special Election for Sheldon Silver Seat Could Be Next April

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. (Photo: Spencer Platt for Getty Images)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today he is looking to hold a special election for former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s Manhattan seat next April, scheduling the contest for the same day as the presidential primary.

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat who has been reluctant to call special elections in the past, said holding elections for the Lower East Side district and other vacancies on that day will save the state money.

“I am looking at calling a special election for the Sheldon Silver seat as well as two other vacancies that exist now for April 19,” Mr. Cuomo told the Observer at an unrelated event in Harlem. “I believe that’s within the legal deadlines and that’s the date we’re looking at.”

In response to another reporter’s question, Mr. Cuomo affirmed he chose the date because it coincided with the presidential primary. “You wouldn’t have the extra expense. People are going to be voting anyway so why not get those elections done at the same time?”

Mr. Silver, 71, held the speaker’s post for two decades and served in the Assembly for nearly 40 years before he was forced from office yesterday following a guilty conviction on corruption charges. The stunning downfall of Mr. Silver has meant reduced clout for his pocket of Manhattan, but it will also allow a new generation of politicians to throw their hats into the ring.

Paul Newell, a local Democratic district leader who unsuccessfully ran against Mr. Silver in 2008, is expected to seek the seat. Fellow Democratic district leader Jenifer Rajkumar, who failed to unseat a Silver ally in Councilwoman Margaret Chin two years ago, may run as well. Gigi Li, the chairwoman of the local community board, is said to also be interested.

A special election will mean the local Democratic organization, and not an open primary, will determine the Democratic nominee. In the overwhelmingly Democratic district, the nomination is tantamount to victory. Special elections are typically low turnout affairs, but with New Yorkers showing up to the polls to vote in the presidential primary, this round of special elections could see a significant spike in turnout.

The April victory for the Democratic nominee could be short-lived, however. The winner could face a challenge in the normally-scheduled September primary.

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