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Assembly leader calls for special elections to fill vacancies

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Some top state lawmakers seem to be changing their minds over whether to call special elections for a growing number of vacancies in the legislature. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver now says he wants voters to pick new legislators to fill 11 vacancies.
Speaker Silver had said special elections to fill the nine vacancies in the Assembly and two in the Senate might be pointless, since new members could not be seated before the budget is done and that he did not expect the legislature after late March to do much work during the rest of the year.

That would have meant the 1.8 million people in those districts would not have a new representative in office for another year.

The Speaker has now changed his position. In a statement, Silver now says he believes it is “important” for special elections to be held. And he says members of the Assembly and Senate “work hard throughout the year serving their constituents both in their communities and in Albany during session.”
Governor Cuomo, who previously said he wasn’t planning to hold any special elections, citing the cost, now say he is looking at it.
Among the vacancies is the 143rd Assembly seat, which was resigned by Dennis Gabryszak over the weekend. Gabryszak is facing sexual harassment allegations by seven former and current female staff members.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.