Come January, Bob Antonacci's new title will be judge.
Antonacci, a Republican state senator, received the second-most votes in the race to fill three state Supreme Court judge seats in central New York. With the early vote and election night tally, he has 89,707 votes.
Judge Bernadette Romano Clark received the most votes with 154,711. Finishing behind Antonacci was Joseph Lamendola, who had 88,758 after the election night count.
Julie Cerio finished fourth with 85,034 votes. While there are absentee ballots to count in the six-county judicial district, it's unlikely that Cerio will overtake Antonacci.
Antonacci, of Onondaga, is in the first year representing the 50th Senate District. He decided to run for a judgeship after the sudden passing of Judge James Tormey III in June.
"I'm looking at this as I'm not leaving public service," Antonacci told The Citizen in August. "Yes, I might be leaving the Senate to go to the judiciary. But they're co-equal branches of government, they're both very important branches of government and I'm excited at the opportunity to be a jurist."
With his victory in the state Supreme Court election, Antonacci will vacate his state Senate seat Jan. 1. Gov. Andrew Cuomo could call a special election to fill the seat. According to state law, a special election can be held no earlier than 70 days and no later than 80 days after Cuomo issues the proclamation. The earliest a special election could be held is mid-March.
A possible date for the special election is April 28 — the same day as the presidential primary in New York. Cuomo is eyeing that date for another special election to fill New York's 27th Congressional District seat, which has been vacant since former Rep. Chris Collins resigned.
Cuomo told reporters in Albany Wednesday that his "inclination" would be to call a special election if Antonacci resigns from the Senate by Jan. 1.
It would be the second consecutive election the 50th district seat is up for grabs. In 2018, longtime state Sen. John DeFrancisco decided to retire and not seek another two-year term. Antonacci defeated Democratic candidate John Mannion by 2,332 votes. The campaigns and outside groups spent nearly $3 million on the central New York state Senate race.
There will be plenty of interest in the 50th district race again. There were several Republicans who either entered the race or considering running before Antonacci emerged as the GOP front-runner in 2018. Mannion, D-Westvale, is considering another run. Other Democrats may be interested too.
Whether there's a special election or not, both parties will make the 50th district race a high priority.
Republicans want to retain the seat they've held for more than 50 years. It's a crucial district in their bid to regain control of the Senate majority. They can't afford to lose any more seats while trying to pick up others.
On the Democratic side, they can pad their majority with a win in the 50th. Democrats hold 40 of the 63 seats in the chamber. If they can retain other seats and win in the 50th next year, they would inch closer to a supermajority in the Senate.
Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.
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