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Uncertainty surrounds process to elect Lee's successor

By Mark Scott


Buffalo, NY – The Republicans have their candidate for the upcoming special election in the 26th congressional district. But the Democrats are giving potential candidates from their side until Thursday to express interest. WBFO's Mark Scott takes a look at some of the ongoing developments in the race to succeed former Congressman Chris Lee.

Right now, it looks like the soonest a special election would be held is at least three months from now. That's because Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week he's introducing a bill that would require a minimum 70-day time period between when a special election is called and the date of the actual vote. He says that would bring the state in compliance with federal military voting regulations. While Cuomo is not yet saying when -- or if -- he will call a special election, University at Buffalo Political Scientist Joshua Dyck says last week's Republican endorsement of Jane Corwin for the seat was partially aimed at getting him to do so.

"If it appears there's a campaign going on, then the governor may feel under pressure to come out and say this is when the special election will be," Dyck said.

Republican leaders are clearly annoyed that a special election is still months away. Dyck says that could benefit the Democrats as they try to identify and then run a candidate who can win in the heavily Republican 26th district.

"Certainly, it gives the Democrats a little more time to figure out what they're going to do," Dyck said.

Also adding intrigue to the race is businessman Jack Davis' plans to run a third-party, independent race after he was denied the major party endorsements. Davis has run as a Democrat in past elections. But he has since re-enrolled as a Republican. So, Dyck believes Davis would would likely attract votes from both major parties.

"He's not a traditional Democrat," Dyck said. "He has a very hardline stance against free trade, which doesn't fit with either party."

Dyck says special elections are highly unpredictable. But he does acknowledge that candidates like Corwin and Davis, who are able to self-finance their races, are better off because of the traditionally short window for campaigning.