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It took a full month, but the finish line has been set in the race to replace former Rep. Chris Lee (R) in New York’s 26th district.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that the special election will be held May 24. The timing of the contest had largely been a mystery in recent weeks; New York election law gives the governor wide latitude in scheduling special elections.
Democrats have yet to select a nominee; the district’s Republican county chairmen selected state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin late last month. The relatively speedy choice angered some local tea party activists, and it’s likely there will be at least a three-way race.
There are at least two Republicans weighing third-party bids: Iraq War veteran David Bellavia and wealthy businessman Jack Davis, who previously ran for Congress as a Democrat.
The announcement of an election date also starts an important clock for Davis and Bellavia. To qualify for the ballot, each man must collect 3,500 signatures in the next 12 days.
Members of the Western New York Tea Party Coalition have pledged support for Davis.
“He’s the best candidate in the race. I would know, because I ran on the tea party line,” coalition member and former third-party Senate candidate Dave DiPietro told Roll Call on Wednesday. “Jack is a very conservative businessman. ... He’s run his races in the past with integrity. He’s not a mudslinger. He has integrity.”
Other tea party groups, however, suggest that they’re leaning toward Corwin or possibly Bellavia.
Although Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul is considered the favorite, Democrats have been slow to nominate a candidate, largely because they’re waiting to see how the infighting on the right will help shape the race. The district strongly leans to the right, and Democrats’ best hope is for a divided electorate.
The Corwin campaign released this statement earlier in the day: “The reality is that whoever Washington Democrats tell their local members to select, the Democrat candidate will be the hand-picked choice of Nancy Pelosi and be another reliable vote to raise taxes to push her borrow-and-spend, big government agenda. That’s just a fact.”