GOP's Eyes on Who Will Fill Empty N.Y. House Seat

With conservative pols and other visiting New Yorkers at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that opened in Washington, D.C., on Thursday still reeling over the sudden (and sex scandal-tarred) resignation of Rep. Chris Lee (R.-N.Y.) last week, they are only now starting to discuss what will happen in the soon-to-be-called special election to fill Lee’s open House seat.

By all accounts, New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to call for an election to replace Lee in the suburban Buffalo district within 30 to 40 days.  When scandal and resulting resignation last brought down a congressman from New York (Democrat Eric Massa last year), then-Democratic Gov. David Paterson let the seat remain open for eight months until it was filled in the regular general election in November.

Despite all the embarrassment over the circumstances of two-termer Lee’s exit, Republicans in New York and Washington, D.C., are not worried about retaining the 26th District.  The district has been securely in GOP hands since 1970, when former Buffalo Bills great Jack Kemp snatched it from the Democrats.  As has been the case in the last several congressional vacancies in the Empire State, county party leaders will hold a meeting to select the GOP nominee in the special election.  Party chieftans will have weighted votes based on the size of their counties.

Most of the talk in Republican circles centers on State Asemblywoman Jane Corwin (R.,C.,I.-Clarence), who has compiled a record as a fiscal conservative during her two terms in Albany and opposes gay marraige.  Considered a spirited and feisty campaigner, Corwin also comes from a wealthy family that launched the Talking Phone Book seach directory on the Internet.  She is likely to have solid support from Erie and Niagara Counties if she makes the race.

HUMAN EVENTS sources in New York said Corwin is very interested in running.  In addition, there is some nervousness about state Sen. George Maziarz (R.,C.-Newfane) or state Sen. Joe Robach (R.,C.,I.-56th District) seeking the Republican nod.  Neither is considered as conservative as Corwin, but more importantly, were either elected to Congress, the departure from the state senate would end the Republicans’ one-seat majority in that chamber.

“And that would be a disaster, with redistricting upon us,” historian and author David Pietrusza, who knows all things New York, told HUMAN EVENTS during a break at the CPAC conference the other day.  “Democrats control the governorship and the state assembly.  If they won the senate and controlled the entire redistricting process, just think what they would do and who they would go after.”  Pietrusza said that New York will lose two U.S. House districts as a result of the latest census, and any of the six freshman Republicans elected last fall could be targets.

For now, Republicans in upstate New York are waiting to see what date Cuomo will set for the special election and what Corwin will do.