Anna Sale is the host and managing editor of Death, Sex & Money, a biweekly interview podcast at WNYC. A veteran public media reporter, Anna covered politics for years, including the 2013 New York City mayoral race, the 2012 presidential campaign, and the statehouse beat in Connecticut and West Virginia. She is a frequent fill-in host for The Brian Lehrer Show and The Leonard Lopate Show and has contributed to This American Life, NPR, Marketplace, Studio 360, PBS Newshour, and Slate.
Filling Weiner's Vacant Seat: How a Special Election Could Work
Thursday, June 16, 2011
New York: home to the special elections brought about by sexually suggestive online photos and supreme bad judgment.
For the second time in six months, New York party officials will be scrambling scramble to settle on candidates for a special election.
With Anthony Weiner set to resign his seat, the timing of an election to replace him is up to Governor Andrew Cuomo. It is his job to officially call for a special election, and when and whether he does that is his prerogative.
Two different scenarios could happen:
- If Weiner's resignation is effective before July 7, and Cuomo does not call a special election, candidates can collect petition signatures until July 14 to get on the primary ballot for the already-scheduled city election on September 13.
- If the governor calls a special election, there will be no primary, and the six major political parties select their candidate according to their own party rules. Both the Republican and Democratic parties allow for local county executives to vote, so in the 9th District, that decision would come down to the King and Queens county leaders.
Cuomo could call for the special election to coincide with the September 13 election in the city to save the money of a separate election.
In the 26th District, the Congressional seat was the only race on the ballot, and the election came just a week after voters headed to the polls to school board votes. There was no primary to select the Democratic candidate for the seat. Instead, the Democratic county chairs from the seven counties in the district put out a public call for resumes from any interested candidates. They ultimately tapped Hochul over six other local Democrats who had expressed interest.
"We didn't need to do recruiting," said Livingston County Democratic chairwoman Judith Hunter. "We had several people step forward."
The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chimed in on conference calls but didn't actively get involved in recruiting, in part because they weren't confident they could launch an effective challenge in the traditionally Republican district.
In the case of multiple-county districts, the Democratic party rules hold that each county chair's vote is weighted depending on how many votes for Democratic gubernatorial candidate each county had in the previous election.
In tapping Hochul, Hunter said, it never came to that: "There was complete consensus."
Weiner's district may be targeted by redistricting as state legislators redraw boundaries and eliminate two seats. That was also the case in the 26th, and Hunter said that prospect did come up as the county chairs were meeting.
"Everyone was aware that we don't know what the district lines will look like in a year and a half," she said.
But again, it wasn't clear a Democratic candidate had a real shot at the seat. Had it gone as expected, the Democrat's campaign could have been an exercise in building name recognition for another year.
The party politics are different in the Weiner's District, which long been a Democratic stronghold. The Democratic party — and incumbent Democrats in neighboring districts — may be just fine letting a young, green politician bask in the spotlight of a special election, only to have the seat later carved out of the redistricted map.