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Democratic leaders in upstate New York have selected venture capitalist Scott Murphy as their nominee to replace newly appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in the upcoming special election.
The Democratic chairmen of the 10 counties within the sprawling 20th district unanimously selected Murphy after interviewing a handful of candidates Sunday who were interested in seeking Gillibrand's House seat. Murphy will square off against state Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco (R) in what is likely to be a highly competitive race.
"All ten County chairs are humbled, honored and appreciative of the slate of candidates we have gotten to know through this process," the Democratic leaders said in a joint statement. "The other candidates interviewed have expressed complete support and excitement about candidate Murphy."
The 20th district seat represents a major pickup opportunity for beleaguered House Republicans. Newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has already showed how important he believes the race is by announcing Saturday that he intends to travel to the district later this week to meet with Tedisco and local party leaders.
National Democrats have yet to reveal how much they plan to invest in the campaign, but in tapping Murphy, they have selected a nominee who has already expressed a willingness to drop some of his own money into the race. Murphy, 38, has started several businesses and currently runs one of the biggest venture capital funds in upstate New York.
Republicans signaled one of their likely lines of attack against Murphy on Sunday when the conservative Web site redstate.com published an exposé about his business practices and tax history. Republicans also are likely to label Murphy a carpetbagger because he has only lived in the district for about three years -- although his wife comes from a large and prominent family in Glens Falls.
The carpetbagger argument may only go so far, however. Tedisco doesn't live in the district, either -- though about half of his legislative district is within the Congressional district, and he does own a home in the district.
Murphy plans to argue that he has created jobs locally with the businesses he has started and his venture capital funds, and that he is expert in creating the kind of private-public partnerships that government will need during the current economic crisis. Murphy also as a solid political background, having been a top aide to two former governors in his home state of Missouri, Mel Carnahan (D) and Roger Wilson (D).
I am excited and honored to be selected to follow in the footsteps of the extraordinary Senator Gillibrand as the Democratic nominee, and I look forward to discussing my ideas and getting out to meet voters as soon as possible," Murphy said in a statement.
Gov. David Paterson (D) has yet to schedule the special election. Once he officially declares a vacancy, the vote must be held within 30 to 40 days.
Until Gillibrand's upset victory over then-Rep. John Sweeney (R) in 2006, the 20th district was considered a Republican stronghold, but it is far more competitive now. Still, Republicans hold a 70,000-person edge in voter registration.