Parties gird for special election

Cuomo sets March 20 as date to fill open Assembly seat in 103rd AD

GHENT–The seat in the 103rd Assembly District left vacant when Marc Molinaro became Dutchess County executive late last month will be filled by the winner of a special election March 20.

Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement of the date for the election Monday, January 9.

The 103rd Assembly District is made up of the city of Hudson and the towns of Ancram, Austerlitz, Canaan, Claverack, Copake, Ghent, Greenport, Hillsdale and Stockport in Columbia County and 12 Dutchess County towns, including Red Hook, Milan, Millerton and Pine Plains plus most of the eastern side of that county stretching south to the Putnam County border.

The date of the special election is set to coincide with the annual village elections, but the ballot for the special election must be certified by January 27, which leaves the parties less than two weeks to pick and submit the names of nominees. So far three Republicans have indicated their interest in running for the post, and at least one of them is familiar to some local voters. Former Assemblyman Patrick Manning of Fishkill announced last week, several days before the special election was officially announced, that he would seek his old seat.

But this week Mr. Molinaro, who defeated Mr. Manning in a bitterly fought GOP primary challenge in 2006, threw his support behind Richard Wager of Millbrook, a former aide to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a former publisher of the Poughkeepsie Journal.  Mr. Wager briefly sought the GOP nomination to run for Congress in 2008, but left the race when Sandy Treadwell got the nomination. The Poughkeepsie Journal reported this week that a third Republican, Dutchess County Legislator Michael Kelsey, had expressed an interest in running for the seat.

Mr. Manning said Wednesday that Republicans in the district would hold a convention this Saturday, January 13, to pick their nominee.

Meanwhile Democrats say they have been interviewing candidates but have not yet made a choice. No Democratic candidates have publically identified themselves.

Cyndy Hall, who heads the Columbia County Democratic Committee, said this week that people from both Dutchess and Columbia counties had shown an interest in running for the seat. “We’re in high gear,” she said of the selection process.

The scramble to represent the district will likely be repeated soon, since term of the person who wins the special election will run only until the end of this year, when Mr. Molinaro’s term would have expired. In November general election voters will again have to select their member of the state Assembly, this time for a full two-tear term.

But that second race could look very different depending on how the state legislature redraws the boundaries of the 103rd Assembly District as part of statewide redistricting. That process could put some voters who now cast their ballots in the 103rd District in a different district.

Right now,

The latest voter registration figure posted by the state Board of Elections date from last November. They show that of nearly 81,000 “active” voters in the 103rd District, Columbia County residents, regardless of party affiliation, comprise only 27% of the total. The rest are in Dutchess County, which explains why the announced candidates so far hail from there.

In Columbia County “active” Democratic voters outnumber active Republicans by 7,367 to 6,570. The “Blanks” — voters who indicate no party preference–account for 5,674 voters here. Voters from all the other minor parties don’t have a big impact in terms of numbers–only the Independence Party has more than 1,000 people registered.

In Dutchess County, the active Democrats at 16,808 are outnumbered by 20,959 active Republican voters. The Blanks weigh in at 16,018.

In a brief phone interview this week Mr. Manning said he planned to run for the seat in November regardless of what happens in the special election. He said his name recognition and his record in the Assembly, where he served for 12 years, gave him a distinct advantage in the race.

The Columbia Paper was unable to find contact information on the other two announced candidates before press deadline.

The special election in the 103rd District is one of five such elections on the same day around the state to fill other seats. 

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