GOP Optimistic About Possible Gillibrand Special Election

Posted January 22, 2009 at 5:04pm

As rumors swirl that Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) may be tapped Friday to replace new Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Senate, Republicans are already beginning to mobilize to run in a special House election that may never take place.

Gillibrand upset then-Rep. John Sweeney (R) in 2006 in a conservative upstate district, and Republicans would dearly love to win the seat back. If Gillibrand is appointed to the Senate, a special election would be held in early spring to replace her in the House, and Republicans might start out with an advantage given the political lean of the 20th district.

According to several political sources in upstate New York, state Sen. Betty Little (R) has begun talking to local GOP leaders about making the race.

But the Republicans could have an abundance of candidates, including Sandy Treadwell, a wealthy former New York GOP chairman who took 38 percent of the vote against Gillibrand in November. Treadwell spent almost $6 million of his own money on the race last year, and his personal wealth could give him an edge in a special election.

Former state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso (R), who was almost elected state comptroller in 2002 and was clobbered as the GOP nominee for governor in 2006, has been contemplating a political comeback and may see a race for Gillibrand’s seat as a way back in the political game.

Also mentioned is state Sen. Steven Saland (R). State legislators like Saland and Little would not have to sacrifice their seats to run in a special election.

The list of obvious potential Democratic contenders for the seat is shorter, though state Assemblyman Tim Gordon has been mentioned. Gordon, a member of the Independence Party, was elected to a GOP-leaning seat in 2006 with the support of Democrats. While he lives just outside of the 20th district, his legislative district overlaps with portions of the 20th.

It is also possible that some of the Democrats who were primary runners-up to now-Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) in the adjoining 21st district may try their luck in the 20th. Tracey Brooks, the ambitious former Clinton Senate aide who finished second to Tonko in the primary and is close to Gillibrand’s political team, is certain to be mentioned.

Another long-shot possibility for the Democrats is former star New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter, who owns a home in the Adirondack Mountains. Richter has pondered running for Congress in Connecticut during the past few election cycles.