New York 26: Yet Another Special Election

Nathan L. Gonzales February 9, 2011 · 11:20 PM EST

GOP Cong. Chris Lee’s resignation from Congress sets up yet another House special election in New York. The married congressman left office soon after the story broke that he was pursuing a date with a woman on Craig’s List, including sending a shirtless photo of himself to her.

The 26th Congressional District near Buffalo has been reliably Republican, standing up to two Democratic waves. John McCain defeated Barack Obama in the district 52%-46%.

But as Republicans found in the 23rd District not long ago, special elections can cause headaches.

According to GOP sources, the most likely potential candidate is Assemblywoman Jane Corwin. First elected in 2008, Corwin represents parts of Niagara and Erie counties in the western portion of the district.

The party nominees will be chosen by a weighted vote of county party leaders instead of a primary. The 26th C.D. includes all or parts of Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, Monroe, and Livingston counties.

GOP strategists are cautiously optimistic about holding the seat, particularly in this political environment, but until the nominees are chosen, it’s always more difficult to handicap the race. The race starts as Republican Favored.

Other potential GOP candidates mentioned include Assemblyman Jim Hayes (who represents parts of Niagara and Erie counties, west of Corwin’s district), Assemblyman Steve Hawley (Orleans, parts of Genesee, Niagara, and Monroe), state Sen. George Maziarz (all of Niagara County, except the city of Niagara Falls, all of Orleans, and part of Monroe in the northern part of the district), Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, and businessman Dan Humiston, who owns the largest tanning salon chain in the state and lost to Cong. Brian Higgins (D), 74%-23%, in the neighboring 27th District in 2008.

Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz and Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul are mentioned as potential candidates for the Democrats.