If there is a special election to fill the state Senate vacated by Bob Antonacci, it's possible Republicans won't field a candidate in the race.
Onondaga County Republican Chairman Tom Dadey told The Citizen Tuesday that the party's focus is to win the 50th Senate District seat in November, not in a potential special election.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in November that it's his "inclination" to call a special election to fill the vacancy. It's possible he would schedule the special election for April 28 — the same day as the New York presidential primary.
If the special election occurs at the same time as the presidential primary, Dadey said that would be a concern for Republicans. President Donald Trump, a Republican, won't face significant opposition for the nomination. The competitive contest is on the Democratic side, which has three candidates — Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — polling in double digits.
"Given the way the presidential field is shaking out, the only people that are going to show up on the presidential primary day are Democrats who want to vote for the candidate of their choice for president," said Dadey, who added that it would give Democrats an "unfair advantage."
There were similar concerns raised in New York's 27th Congressional District. Cuomo indicated he would call the special election for April 28 — the same day as the Democratic presidential primary. Republicans, including state GOP chair Nick Langworthy, criticized that decision. In December, the state party filed a lawsuit against Cuomo to force an earlier date. But it doesn't appear that effort will be successful.
Despite the potential April 28 special election and the purported edge for Democrats, Republicans still have an enrollment advantage in the 27th district. As of Nov. 1, there are nearly 41,000 more Republicans than Democrats in the district.
The GOP doesn't have a similar advantage in the 50th Senate District. There are over 3,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in the district, according to the state Board of Elections.
There are a few challenges facing Republicans in the 50th district race, according to Dadey. If Cuomo calls a special election, the parties would pick candidates to run. At around the same time, candidates must circulate petitions to qualify for the June primary and November general elections.
With the tight political calendar, Dadey raised the possibility that Republicans may not have the same candidate in the special election as the November election.
Money is a factor, too. Now that Senate Republicans are in the minority, fundraising has taken a hit. When Antonacci won in 2018, he benefited from the Republicans' status as the majority party. With Democrats in the majority, they are able to raise more money for campaigns.
"We're going to struggle to raise money," Dadey said. "It's especially hard if you have to participate in two or three elections."
Another reason the special election may not be a high priority for Republicans is the timeline. If the special election is held April 28, it's likely the state budget process will be finished The state legislative session ends in early June, so the winner wouldn't spend a lot of time in Albany.
There are Republicans interested in the race, Dadey said. One Republican — Cayuga County Legislator Tim Lattimore — has expressed interest in running for the 50th district seat. No other Republicans have publicly announced their plans.
Democrats have already selected their candidate to run in a potential special election. John Mannion, a West Genesee High School teacher who was the party's nominee in 2018, will be the Democratic candidate.
"We're still talking with folks, both inside the current political structure and outside the political structure, to come up with a candidate who can win in November," Dadey said.
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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