35-Year-Old Attorney Says He Wants Democratic Nod in N.Y. Special Election

Posted July 21, 2009 at 4:38pm

As Democratic leaders wait to see whether their preferred candidate enters the yet-to-be-scheduled special election to replace Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.), a 35-year-old lawyer Tuesday expressed his interest in seeking the Democratic nomination and said he is prepared to spend six figures of his own money on the race.

Brian McGrath said he has reached out to the 11 county Democratic chairmen who will select the nominee for the special election and has already lined up a team of well-known national consultants to aid his campaign.

“Today I am stepping out to introduce myself as someone exploring the possibility of becoming the Democratic nominee for Congress should John McHugh resign his seat,— McGrath said in a statement. “I want to agitate, advocate and argue for the values and the people of Central New York and the North Country.—

McHugh has been nominated to be secretary of the Army, and assuming he is confirmed by the Senate, a highly competitive special election will follow in the 23rd district, which covers a wide swath of upstate New York territory.

McGrath’s announcement comes as the Thursday deadline looms for Democrats who are interested in seeking McHugh’s seat to come forward. Most party officials in New York and Washington, D.C., say that state Sen. Darrel Aubertine (D) has the right of first refusal for the party nomination.

But with Aubertine still silent on his plans, McGrath is hoping to make his mark with the county leaders. He has hired Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Associates to do polling and Washington, D.C.-based general consultant Erick Mullen. Mullen has worked on several races in upstate New York.

McGrath becomes the third Democrat to express an interest in the nomination: attorney Michael Oot, the 2008 nominee, and Danny Francis, the 1994 nominee, are also running.

“I am thrilled to see [McGrath] in this process,— said Lewis County Democratic Chairman Ed Murphy. “I’ve known Brian McGrath since childhood, and we’re lucky to have someone of his talents considering a run for Congress.—

Although McGrath grew up in the district and went to college and law school in upstate New York, he has worked as an attorney in New York City since getting out of law school in 2000. One of the leading candidates seeking the Republican nomination, investment banker Matthew Doheny, also grew up in the district but has spent most of his professional life in the city.

Republican county leaders are scheduled to meet Wednesday, but it isn’t clear whether they plan to designate their nominee at that time. Although several Republicans have expressed their interest in the special election, the leading GOP contenders appear to be Doheny and state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava.