Who's on the ballot in the state legislative special elections?
Although voters did not get to choose their party nominees in next month’s special elections, they will get to vote for the candidates they didn’t choose after a very short campaigning period.
Eleven state Assembly members and senators were elected or appointed to other positions last year, leaving their seats vacant. On Feb. 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order which declared special elections would held on April 24, triggering a scramble for candidates to be chosen by county party leaders and make their cases to voters within an 80-day period. Here is a guide to the the candidates vying for the vacant seats:
State Senate District 32
Three candidates are looking to fill now-New York City Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr.’s cowboy hat as the new state senator for the Bronx-based 32nd District. Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda has the Democratic nomination sewn up, while Pamela Stewart-Martinez is running on the Reform Party line and Hunter College professor Patrick Delices is the Republican nominee. The heavily Democratic district is likely to elect Sepulveda, which would then trigger the need for another special election to fill his vacant Assembly seat.
State Senate District 37
The fight for former state Sen. George Latimer’s Westchester County seat is being closely watched by both parties. If the Democrats win both the 32nd and 37th Senate districts, it would trigger a plan to reunify the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference with the mainline Democratic caucus. However, this state Senate seat has been a battleground in the past, with Republican Bob Cohen losing narrowly to Democrat Suzi Oppenheimer in 2010 and to Latimer in 2012.
Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer was designated the Democratic nominee before a special election date was even chosen. Former Rye City Councilwoman Julie Killian was chosen as the Republican nominee for the seat in February. Cuomo has endorsed Mayer, and appeared at a rally with her on March 11, urging voters to support Mayer.
Assembly District 5
After Assemblyman Al Graf won the election for the Fifth District Court judgeship in Islip, his former aide, Doug Smith, soon declared his candidacy for his old boss’s seat. But while Smith has the Republican nomination, there was some drama around who he would be facing. After Democratic nominee Peter Zarcone dropped out of the race in early February, Suffolk County Democrats nominated Deborah Slinkosky, a former Sachem school board member.
Assembly District 10
Former Republican Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci was elected town supervisor of Huntington in November, leaving his Suffolk County seat vacant. There are 6,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in the district and former Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern has the Democratic nomination, while attorney Janet Smitelli will be on the Republican line.
Assembly District 17
Assemblyman Thomas McKevitt traded his seat in the Assembly for one on the Nassau County Legislature. Democrat Matthew Malin, a county Board of Elections employee, will face Republican John Mikulin, a deputy attorney for the town of Hempstead, in the special election. The GOP holds a 4-3 registration advantage in the district.
Assembly District 39
Two candidates are vying for Assemblyman-turned-New York City Councilman Francisco Moya’s former seat. Aridia Espinal, a former staffer to Moya, received the Democratic nomination for the Queens seat in February. She has received endorsements from Moya and the New York State United Teachers federation. Catalina Cruz, a Dreamer who served as chief of staff to former city Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, is reportedly set to run in the September primary. The Queens GOP is not fielding a candidate in the special election.
Assembly District 74
This seat has been vacant since December, when Brian Kavanagh was sworn in as the state senator replacing former state Sen. Daniel Squadron, who resigned in the middle of his term. Housing activist Harvey Epstein has the momentum in the race to replace Kavanagh, sewing up nominations from major city figures like New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and city Comptroller Scott Stringer, and edging out Mike Corbett, an aide to Councilman Costa Constantinides, for the Democratic nomination. Bryan Cooper was endorsed for the Republican nomination by the New York County Republican Committee.
Assembly District 80
Former Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, who is now a New York City councilman, likely left his seat safely in Democratic hands, as the district has a wide Democratic advantage in voter registration. Nathalia Fernandez, Gjonaj’s former chief of staff, won the Democratic nomination for the Bronx seat in February. Adam Bermudez, an aide to city Councilman Andy King, filed a campaign committee with the state Board of Elections, but has not listed any financial disclosures.
Assembly District 102
Former Republican Assemblyman Peter Lopez became the regional administrator for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s region 2 in October, leaving his GOP-leaning Greene County seat vacant. Aidan O’Connor will run on the Democratic, Working Families and Women’s Equality party lines, while town of Schoharie Supervisor Christopher Tague will be on the Republican, Conservative, Independence and Reform party lines. An independent candidate, Wes Laraway, will also be on the ballot.
Assembly District 107
Republican Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin was elected Rensselaer County executive in November. Two Rensselaer County legislators are now squaring off against each other for the vacant seat in a district with registration evenly split between the two major parties. Democrat Cindy Doran, who was just elected to her second term in the county legislature, will be on the Democratic, Working Families and Women’s Equality lines. Republican Jake Ashby, who was just elected to the legislature in November, will be on the Republican, Independence and Conservative party lines.
Assembly District 142
Assemblyman Michael Kearns was elected Erie County clerk in November. His seat is being sought by two Democrats – although one is running on the Republican party line. County Legislator Patrick Burke is the Democratic nominee, while Democrat Erik Bohen, a public school teacher, was tapped by Republican county leaders, although he would caucus with the Democrats if he won. This is not the first time that Republicans have endorsed a Democrat for the Buffalo-area seat. In 2012, Kearns won his special election by running on the Republican line and beating the Democratic nominee.