It seems increasingly likely that a special election for the western New York congressional seat vacated by the disgraced Chris Collins will be held the same day as New York’s presidential primary in April -- and that has Republicans in the state crying foul.
Collins resigned his seat in late September prior to pleading guilty to federal charges of insider trading.
Collins, the first congressional representative to support Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, represented the most heavily Republican district in the state.
It’s up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to decide when the special election to replace Collins should be held.
Cuomo has said that he has not yet made up his mind on the exact date, but when asked about it, he’s repeatedly made the case that the Apri l 28 presidential primary would be a good choice. He has said it would also save the state money to add the election to an already established voting day.
The governor spoke about it most recently on Rochester public radio station WXXI.
“Would you rather have a special election and charge taxpayers $1 million and ask them to come and vote just for Congress, or do it on April 28, when they're also coming out to vote for president?" Cuomo said on Oct. 24. “My instinct is do it on April 28. People want to participate, but make it easy to participate. Don't ask me to come out and vote 11 times. I have other things to do in my life."
But in April, it will be mainly Democrats who will be going to the polls. Several Democratic candidates are running for president, but Trump is not expected to have any serious Republican challengers running in New York state.
The head of the state’s Republican Party, Nick Langworthy, said holding the election for the congressional seat on the day of the presidential primary unfairly disadvantages the GOP candidate running for the 27th District seat.
And he believes Cuomo is doing it on purpose.
“I should expect no more from Andrew Cuomo than to try to put his thumb on the scale,” said Langworthy, who added that the special election should be held “on a day when there’s no other distractions.”
“He’ll say it’s about cost savings, it’s about him trying to cheat,” said Langworthy, who spoke at the state Capitol on Oct. 17.
Langworthy said the seat should be filled as soon as possible so that constituents can be represented during a tumultuous time in Washington.
“So we’re going to let these people go without representation while people are trying to impeach the president?” he said. “Call the special for January.”
Cuomo counters that voters of either party would be as likely to turn out on the presidential primary voting day as they would on a separate day just for that seat.
“If there's a congressional seat that's important, why wouldn't they show up on April 28, but they would show up on a special election day?" Cuomo said. “And it costs a million dollars to have a special election. What happened to conservatives wanting to reduce government spending?”
If the special election were to be held in late April, the governor would need to announce it by early February.
The candidates so far include Democrat Nate McMurray, who is supervisor of the town of Grand Island in Erie County. GOP candidates include Robert Ortt and Chris Jacobs, who are both western New York state senators.
Cuomo said voters will have a second chance to choose who holds that congressional seat later in 2020, when the general election is held in November.