Tedisco Gets the GOP Nod in N.Y. 20th

Posted January 27, 2009 at 6:30pm

New York State Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco was tapped by 20th district GOP leaders Tuesday to be their nominee in the special election to replace Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D).

The Republican chairmen of the 10 counties that fall within the 20th district agreed to nominate Tedisco during a meeting at state GOP headquarters in Albany.

Five candidates had been vying for the Republican nod in the special election, which has not yet been scheduled.

Gillibrand, a two-term Congresswoman, was sworn in as New York’s junior Senator on Tuesday afternoon by Vice President Joseph Biden. Once New York Gov. David Paterson (D) issues an affidavit for the special election, it must be held within 30 to 40 days.

The race to replace Gillibrand is expected to be hotly contested in an upstate district that generally votes Republican but has trended Democratic in the past two election cycles. Tedisco lives just outside the district, but as Minority Leader in the Assembly, he has a high profile and close ties to GOP leaders upstate. He also does not have to give up his seat in the Legislature in order to run in the special election.

Tedisco has been in public office since 1977, when he was elected to the Schenectady City Council at 27. He was elected to the Assembly in 1982 and has served as Minority Leader since late 2005.

In that role, Tedisco has been a media-savvy critic of Democratic governors and legislative leaders, famously butting heads with then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) when Spitzer tried to make drivers licenses available to illegal immigrants.

“Jim Tedisco is a strong candidate who has a record of standing up and fighting for the interests and values of his constituents,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain said in a statement. “He is the consensus candidate of local Republicans in upstate New York and we are confident he will attract the support of mainstream middle class voters as he has in the past.”

Democrats are unlikely to nominate someone with as much political experience as Tedisco. Party leaders are sifting through a list of about two dozen candidates but aren’t expected to designate their nominee for at least another week. Leading contenders for the Democratic nod include former TV broadcaster Tracy Egan, venture capitalist Scott Murphy, state AFL-CIO official Suzy Ballantyne and former New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter.