Local party bosses will pick a single Republican and just one Democrat to go on the ballot to replace Kirsten Gillibrand in the House -- an insiders-only process that seems to give the GOP edge to New York Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco.
Given the time frame of the special election to replace Gillibrand, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate on Jan. 23, party chairmen from the 10 counties that make up her 20th District will choose the Republican and Democratic nominees to run in the general special election.
Each county will have a weighted vote; counties that had a larger number of Democrat or Republican voters in the 2008 congressional election will carry more weight in selecting their party's nominee than those with a lighter party voting performance.
Tedisco was endorsed Jan. 24 by the Saratoga County party committee, which has the largest portion of Republican voters of any the district's counties, at 33 percent, followed by Duchess County with 15.2 percent.
"It's a great start and I've gotten great responses from the other nine counties," Tedisco said.
Gillibrand, a moderate upstate Democrat, will be sworn in as the Senate's newest member on Tuesday, four days after Gov. David Paterson tapped her to end a two-month search to fill the Senate post vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Paterson has yet to set a date for the special election to determine Gillibrand's successor in the House, but local political leaders anticipate it will take place some time in March.
Gillibrand won a second term in the Republican-leaning congressional district in November, but observers across the political spectrum agree it will be tough for Democrats to keep the seat.
The district stretches along the state's Eastern border, includes much of the scenic Hudson Valley, as well as the GOP-leaning suburbs of Albany and rural regions along the Adirondack Mountains.
Sensing a rare opportunity in a state where Democrats dominated in recent elections, five other prominent Republicans have joined Tedisco in expressing interest. They include:
- John Faso, former Assembly minority leader and the Republican candidate for governor in 2006. He has been endorsed by Columbia and Green counties.
- State Sen. Betty Little of Queensbury, N.Y., who has been endorsed by Warren, Washington and Essex counties.
- Three Republicans who ran to challenge Gillibrand in 2008 -- Richard Wager, a former aide to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani; U.S. army veteran Michael Rocque; and Sandy Treadwell, the 2008 GOP nominee and a former New York secretary of state.
Saratoga County Republican Committee Chairman John Jasper Nolan said the 10 party county chairman will meet Tuesday to set up the voting criteria for selecting a nominee. If the vote itself does not take place then, it would certainly happen sometime in the next 10 days, he said.
The Democratic roster of potential candidates is in greater flux, with the hopefuls lacking the name recognition of the Republican field.
However, that party's county chairmen also are expected to select their nominee in the coming week.
Among the names being circulated are: Saratoga County Democratic Chairman Larry Bulman, Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Public Safety Ron Kim, WTEN news anchor Tracy Egan, and Coxsackie Town Supervisor Alex Betke.