Now Hiring: Congressional Candidate

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The special election to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of Anthony Weiner in the 9th District has been set by Governor Andrew Cuomo for September 13. While local party bosses mull their options for candidates, the deadline for their nominations is nearly here.

In accordance with special election rules, it will be the local party bosses who nominate the candidates for the seat. Queens Republican Party Chairman Phil Ragusa says the candidate each party is backing must be chosen by July 11. That is the date by which the party has to submit paperwork to the Board of Elections, declaring that their party has decided to nominate the candidate.

Currently the Queens GOP is still screening potential candidates, Ragusa said, adding that there were still “a couple of stragglers.” He said there are at least twelve candidates. Once nominated, candidates have until July 13th to accept or decline the nomination.

So far, City Councilman Eric Ulrich has been brought up as a Republican contender, as well as Bob Turner, who narrowly lost to Weiner in last year's election. Other applicants include Asher Taub, an attorney who previously ran for congress; Andy Sullivan, a 9/11 first responder who — according to the Queens GOP press release — "fought against the ground zero Mosque and in preventing sharia law from being accepted in U.S. courts"; attorney Juan Reyes; Tim Cochrane, formerly of the NY Stock Exchange; career military intelligence officer Col. Fred Britton; and attorney and pro-Israel activist Steve Schiffman.

If their candidate wins the election, it would be the Republicans' first foothold in these boroughs. This might have lasting repercussions come redistricting time, as the GOP will likely fight to preserve the district if it is held by a Republican.

Queens Democratic Chairman Joe Crowley, who also represents New York's 7th Congressional District, will decide which candidate his party ends up backing. The New York Democrats are in the delicate position of finding a candidate strong enough to win, but not so strong that they might pose a problem if New York’s current 9th Congressional District is eliminated during the 2012 redistricting.

Current potential Democratic candidates being named are Assemblyman Rory Lancman, Judge Noach Dear, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, State Senator Jose Peralta, Councilman Mark Weprin , his brother, Assemblyman David Weprin, and possibly former City Council members Eric Gioia and Melinda Katz, as well as Lynn Schulman, who narrowly lost election to City Council in 2009.

The process sounds oddly like an ordinary job interview. Chairman Ragusa said that candidates come in with their resumes and answer a long series of pre-written questions. He said the candidates that come in for a screening are both those who apply of their own initiative and those tapped by the Party to apply. 

 “We have to look at name recognition, whether they can raise the funds. These campaigns are quite expensive, so it has to be someone who can raise the funds to run a credible campaign, and someone who has hopefully participated in the system before.”

The chairman said while the party had screened a couple of “first-timers”, the majority of those who applied had run campaigns before and were familiar with the political process.

“Here the people are calling us, you understand? And of course, if we know somebody that’s in that district. Bob Turner ran before, so of course he was one of the ones that we definitely had on our list.” He said that they did have to put some limits on who the Party would agree to screen, “or else we’d be here for the next three weeks.”

And what is Queens Republican Party looking for in an ideal candidate?

“We go through, and of course, they have to espouse the same principles as the Republican Party – lower taxes, you know, getting rid of Obamacare, and everything that the Republican Congress is working on now, because if someone’s going to go down there, hopefully they’ll be a partner with the rest of the Republican Congress.”

Update: Councilman Eric Ulrich apparently announced on NY1 that he will not run for the seat in NY-9. It appears likely that the two County Democratic leaders, Vito Lopez of Brooklyn and Joe Crowley of Queens may meet today to make their decision on the nomination. The choice will be about 70% Crowley's, as the vote is weighted based on the Democratic vote for governor in 2010. Liz Benjamin reports that the front runners as of yesterday were Assemblymen Rory Lancman and David Weprin.