New York state Sen. Darrel Aubertine, the man national and local Democrats wanted to run in the special election to replace Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.), announced late Thursday that he would not be a candidate — a day after national Republicans began an all-out assault on his potential candidacy. “My priority must continue to be the work I have started in the state Senate,— he said in a statement.Aubertine’s decision greatly enhances the Republicans’ chances of holding the upstate seat in a special election. McHugh has been nominated to be secretary of the Army, and Democrats must now scramble to find a strong candidate to square off against the GOP nominee, state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, a proven vote-getter.Aubertine took a swipe at the National Republican Congressional Committee, which began running attack ads and robocalls Wednesday, and has also dropped a harsh mail piece against him.“National Republicans have demonstrated their belief that party registration matters more than the issues by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to attack and vilify me,— he said. “They never mentioned the important issues we care about here in the 23rd [district], whether it’s our military and Fort Drum, border security and international trade, agriculture, energy and the economy of the future, or rural healthcare.“It’s no small wonder why the Washington Republicans are going extinct, and contributors should question why the money they’ve given was squandered here for no good reason at all.—With Aubertine out of the picture, Democrats may turn to former U.S. Attorney Daniel French, lawyer Brian McGrath, who has pledged to spend some of his own money on the race, or lawyer Michael Oot, their nominee in 2008. Party chairmen in the 11 counties within the 23rd district have yet to set up a timetable to select their nominee and have not released a full list of candidates seeking the nomination.Scozzafava must be considered the favorite for now, but because she is a moderate on social issues, her path to victory is complicated by the fact that the small but influential New York Conservative Party is likely to field a candidate of its own in the special election.Aubertine’s decision not to run for Congress is good news for the Democrats in at least one respect — they hold a razor-thin margin in the state Senate, and if Aubertine had won the special election, the Republicans would have had a good shot of winning his state Senate seat.