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Republicans Line Up for Lee Seat

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Eyes have already shifted to the special election for former Rep. Chris Lee's seat.

Even with Lee’s embarrassing departure, his seat is expected to stay in Republican hands in a special election. The GOP enjoys a 26,000-voter registration advantage in the district. Republicans have performed well even in the Democratic wave years of 2006 and 2008. In recent presidential contests, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) defeated President Barack Obama here by 6 points in 2008, and President George W. Bush hammered Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) by 12 points in 2004.

But Democrats aren’t writing off the seat.

Rural county leaders are pushing Kathy Konst, a former state lawmaker who is now working in GOP Erie County Executive Chris Collins’ administration, according to the New York blog Capital Tonight.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton “has been approached by some party insiders about the possibility of running” and “is weighing the possibility of a bid, according to several sources familiar with his thinking.” Burton, a longtime Democratic aide who worked at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee before joining the Obama campaign, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other potential GOP candidates mentioned include Assemblyman Jim Hayes, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, state Sen. George Maziarz, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks and businessman Dan Humiston, who owns the largest tanning salon chain in the state and lost to Rep. Brian Higgins (D), 74 percent to 23 percent, in the neighboring 27th district in 2008.

Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz and Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul are also mentioned as potential candidates for the Democrats.

Nathan L. Gonzales contributed to this report.

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