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New York: Ex-Assemblyman Set to Join Fray in 21st District

Former state Assemblyman Paul Tonko seems poised to enter the race to replace retiring Rep. Mike McNulty (D), adding a big name to a large but mostly anonymous Democratic field.

Tonko took the first step toward launching his candidacy by resigning earlier this week as head of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, a post that pays more than $148,000 a year. Without addressing the possibility of a Congressional race, Tonko said in a statement, “After a long career in state service, I am looking forward to a new challenge.”

Until Tonko enters the race, the leading Democratic contenders for the vacant Albany-area seat appear to be Tracey Brooks, a former top aide to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D), and Albany County Legislator Phil Steck. While Brooks has been endorsed by members of McNulty’s family and Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, and Steck has lined up some powerful local Democratic committee support, much of the rest of the party establishment is expected to gravitate to Tonko.

The Democratic primary is Sept. 9.

Parties Taking Sides in Race for Reynolds’ Seat

Political leaders have weighed in on the race to replace retiring Rep. Tom Reynolds (R): Democrats are headed to a September primary, but it isn’t clear yet whether Republicans will as well.

According to Tuesday’s Buffalo News, GOP chairmen in the 26th district voted Monday night to endorse wealthy businessman Christopher Lee for Reynolds’ seat.

But another wealthy businessman, Rick Lewis, is also preparing to seek the Republican nomination, and he has the support of Erie County Executive Chris Collins (R) and several leaders of the small but influential Conservative Party. Now that Lee is the official choice of local GOP committees, however, Lewis will have to decide whether to collect petition signatures to force a primary.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard Lenihan became the last county leader in the district to endorse the House bid of 29-year-old Iraq War veteran Jon Powers. Powers is facing factory owner Jack Davis, the 2004 and 2006 Democratic nominee, and attorney Alice Kryzan, in the September primary.

Lenihan told The Buffalo News that Powers “deserves the opportunity” to be the nominee.

“His campaign on the grass-roots level has been effective for a year and a half now, and he represents a new generation of leadership that people are hoping for in this country,” Lenihan said.

— Josh Kurtz

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