Democrats Narrow Field to Replace Gillibrand

Posted January 31, 2009 at 8:14am

Democratic leaders in upstate New York announced Saturday that they have narrowed the field of potential nominees to six in the yet-to-be-scheduled special House election to replace newly appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The field of contenders seems strong enough to guarantee that the race will be highly competitive. Republican leaders this week designated state Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco as their nominee, and he has already begun campaigning. He has scheduled a “Women for Tedisco” rally in Saratoga Springs on Saturday. Although the Democratic chairmen in the 10 counties within the 20th Congressional district did not lay out a timetable for picking a nominee in the statement they released Saturday, it is widely expected that they will interview the six finalists and announce their choice by Sunday evening. The contenders are: • Suzy Ballantyne, the director of governmental affairs for the New York State AFL-CIO. • Tracy Egan, a former broadcaster on Albany TV stations for 20 years who now runs her own real estate and financial consulting firms. • State Assemblyman Tim Gordon, who is actually a member of the New York Independence Party but was elected in a Republican-leaning district with Democratic support and who caucuses with the Democrats in the Legislature. • Ron Kim, the public safety director for the city of Saratoga Springs. • Scott Murphy, a venture capitalist who is a former top aide to two governors of Missouri. • Carol Schrager, an attorney and Democratic donor and activist. In their statement, the Democratic chairmen took a swipe at their Republican counterparts, who nominated Tedisco this week after one joint meeting, arguing that their process has been “very different” from the GOP’s. “More than 30 outstanding candidates participated in a very open and extensive screening process,” the Democratic leaders said. “All were considered by the Chairs. Ten were invited to participate in interviews with the Chairs who remain confident that their efforts will result in the nomination of the strongest possible candidate to succeed former Representative Kirsten Gillibrand.” The giant 20th district, which extends from the exurbs of New York City north to the Adirondack Mountains, was considered a Republican stronghold until Gillibrand upset then-Rep. John Sweeney (R) in 2006. Gillibrand then beat a millionaire Republican challenger by 24 points last fall, at the same time that President Barack Obama was narrowly winning the district. Gov. David Paterson (D) has yet to call the special election, but once he issues a proclamation declaring a vacancy in the district, the election must be held within 30 to 40 days.