Cuomo Sets Special Election Date for Vacant New York Legislature Seats

Democrats and progressive activists say residents in unrepresented districts won't have a voice in budget negotiations.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued a proclamation designating an April 24 special election for 11 vacant seats in the New York State Senate and Assembly—about a month after the state’s budget deadline.

There are nine vacant Assembly seats and two vacant Senate seats.

The vacant seats in New York City are Assembly seats formerly held by Queens Councilman Francisco Moya, Manhattan State Senator Brian Kavanagh and Bronx Councilman Mark Gjonaj as well as a vacant Senate seat held by Bronx Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr.

Westchester County executive George Latimer, a Democrat, has also left his state Senate seat vacant.

Democratic elected officials and activists had urged Cuomo to hold the special elections before the March 31 budget deadline to ensure that the districts which are not currently represented in the state legislature have a voice in budget negotiations.

Harvey Epstein, a Democrat who is running for the seat vacated by Kavanagh, expressed concerns about the special elections taking place late and vowed to revamp the special election process.

“While I am disappointed that the special election will be held so late that the residents of our district will not be represented in time for the state budget, once elected I will work to reform how special elections are conducted so that vacancies are filled through a transparent and speedy process,” Epstein said in a statement.

True Blue New York, one of the anti-IDC groups that emerged in the wake of President Donald Trump’s presidential election victory, blasted the governor for setting the special election after budget talks.

In November 2017, top state Democratic officials sent a letter to Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Bronx State Senator Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of breakaway Democrats in a power-sharing agreement with the Senate GOP, unveiling a plan to bring about Democratic unity in the state Senate.

They proposed that the two sides come together to win anticipated post-budget special elections and that Klein and Stewart-Cousins unite as co-leaders once they win.

In December 2017, Brooklyn State Senator Simcha Felder, a conservative Democrat who has been caucusing with the Senate GOP since he was elected in 2012, said he would continue caucusing with the Republicans, guaranteeing a GOP majority throughout the budget process.

Democrats have a majority in the 63-seat body, with 32 Democrats and 31 Republicans. But the Senate GOP is able to control the chamber because of the IDC and Felder.

Cuomo Sets Special Election Date for Vacant New York Legislature Seats