Cox: GOP Will Keep NY-26

State GOP Chairman Ed Cox, who spent a lot of time after the November elections crowing about how the GOP has gained more House seats in New York (6) than any other state in the nation, just released the following statement in response to former Rep. Chris Lee’s resignation yesterday:

“During his time in the House, Congressman Lee served his constituents well and he deserves our appreciation for his service. This is a regrettable situation and it is sad that he had to resign.”

“We are fortunate to have an energized Republican Party and a deep bench of potential candidates in Western New York. I am confident that a very strong and qualified candidate will be selected to run who will continue to ensure that the people of the 26th District are represented in the Republican Majority in the House of Representatives in Washington.”

Cox was at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Midtown Manhattan this morning for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ appearance at the Crain’s breakfast.

I chatted with him briefly prior to the program, and he insisted that the GOP will have no problem retaining NY-26 (although why anyone would want the seat when it appears to be in serious jeopardy of no longer existing come 2012 remains an open question).

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Skelos: Maziarz Will Be Staying In The Senate (Updated)

Key WNY Republicans are pushing very hard for Sen. George Maziarz to be the party’s pick to run in a special election (should one be called) for the NY-26 abruptly vacated yesterday by former Rep. Chris Lee in the wake of his Craigslist scandal.

CapCon’s Jimmy Vielkind reported this morning that Maziarz, an outspoken and independently-minded Niagara County senator (remember, he’s one of two Republicans who crossed the aisle to accept then-Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson’s offer of committee chairmanships last year), may announce his candidacy as early as today.

Um, yeah. Not if Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has anything to say about it.

“I believe Senator Maziarz will be staying in the Senate,” Skelos said this morning at the Crain’s breakfast in Manhattan (moderated by yours truly along with Crain’s political editor Erik Engquist).

Skelos said he hasn’t spoken to Maziarz personally, but certain unnamed “others” have been in touch with him.

As of yesterday, a number of people – including former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, who was instrumental in Sen. Mark Grisanti’s surprise ouster in a Democrat-dominated Buffalo district of former Sen. Antoine Thompson last fall, were advocating the Maziarz scenario and pushing former Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtaszek as a Senate replacement.

Others, reportedly including former GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, who was urged to run himself, were were pushing for Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, who has the advantage of being able to self-fund – a big plus in the compressed timeframe of special elections.

(Aside: We still haven’t heard from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on when – and whether – he’ll call a special, but most people seem to think he will, since two years without representation is an awfully long time, even when a district might soon be redrawn out of existence).

UPDATE: There’s no some video of Skelos discussing redistricting and NY-26 this morning. It appears after the jump. (Thanks to Grace Rauh of NY1 for that).

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The Deficit. It’s Too Damn High

Jimmy McMillan is back. Some enterprising students who are trying to get Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels to run for President talked McMillan into being a pseudo-spokesman for the Republican.

Students for Mitch Daniels have launched an online petition drive to draft Daniels, touting his fiscal record balancing the Hoosier state’s budget and cutting taxes. In order to get web traffic, they convinced McMillan to film a short spot where he poses as a consultant helping them come up with the catch phrase. “The deficit. It’s too damn high.” Politico has more on how this came about.

Here And Now

Good Morning all.
The web is a buzz with stories about the scandalous resignation of GOP rising star Chris Lee.

Fox News called his fall “Supersonic.”

Here’s a brief look back at Lee’s career.

Members of the media waited for Lee at the airport last night, but he didn’t fly back to Buffalo.

A Buffalo TV station says former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino is supporting Assemblywoman Jane Corwin.

Bob McCarthy at the Buffalo News thinks the favorites are Sen. George Maziarz and Corwin.

A handful of Democratic names have also emerged, including Working Families Party Co-Chair Sam Williams.

Andrew Cuomo took his budget speech to Long Island yesterday. Lt. Governor Bob Duffy was in Utica.

Cuomo told reporters he is working closely with Mayor Bloomberg to fix the Last in, First out policy for teachers.

NY Post says there is hope after Speaker Sheldon Silver says he is willing to discuss reforming LIFO.

Many school districts don’t like Cuomo’s idea of tapping into their reserve funds.

Poughkeepsie Journal thinks Cuomo’s SUNY plan is shortsighted.

Is Cuomo making a liberal case for cutting social security? Matt Miller says he is.

Oneonta Daily Star thinks ethics reform is long overdue.

The ex-wife of former State Senator Hiram Monserrate says he is trying to wiggle out of child support payments,
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Reilich: ‘Lee Served The District Well’

Monroe County GOP Chair Bill Reilich held a press conference shortly after 7pm today to talk about Rep. Chris Lee’s resignation, and the special election that is about to take place.

“Certainly when I left today I didn’t think I’d be standing before you talking about this matter. Chris Lee was a Congressman that represented New York well. He understood the challenges of the residents of Western New York, as well as the challenges that small business faces,” Reilich said.

He was recently appointed to the Ways and Means Committee, a very significant and powerful committee. So we are saddened to hear the news as it developed today. And the Congressman recognized the fact that there are too many issues right now, that are before the House and the members of Congress to have this distraction there, to diminish his effectiveness.”

Reilich says he has yet to talk to Congressman Lee.

“I would say that I am shocked, surprised and disappointed. And, we certainly had a lot of hope and thought he was on the fast track. He was doing a great job,” Reilich added. “Quite honestly, one thing I have learned in the 3 years I have been chairman is I guess I shouldn’t be shocked by anything.”

Reilich also talked at length about the special election. He says the county chairs will vote on the candidate, with Erie having the most influence, and Monroe having the second most.

He also says he is excited about the strength of the Republican parties bench. He specifically mentioned half a dozen potential candidates, from Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, to Senators Maziarz and Robach, former Assemblyman Jack Quinn, Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, and former Niagara County Chair Henry Wojtaszek.

Source: Paladino ‘Seriously Considering’ NY-26 Run (Updated)

Yes, it’s true.

The former Buffalo businessman, who said on multiple occasions that he was done with politics and wouldn’t seek elected office again after losing to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year, is in fact mulling a return to the public stage by running for former Rep. Chris Lee’s seat.

“He’s having his ear bent very hard, and is strongly considering it,” a source with knowledge of these conversations told me.

Paladino would be a force to be reckoned with in NY-26, considering that he carried 12 counties in the general election – basically every county west of Monroe.

Remember, Lee’s district includes all or some of the following counties: Erie (Paladino won big here; it’s his home base), Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming.

Paladino doesn’t live in NY-26, but rather in NY-27 (that’s Rep. Brian Higgins’ district). But there’s no residency requirement for House candidates. I recall that former Rep. John Sweeney moved into NY-20 – to Speigletown from Cohoes – just before running for the seat vacated by Jerry Solomon.

Paladino’s a wealthy guy, he could certainly afford to relocate if he really wants to run.

Update:
Buffalo TV Station WGRZ just tweeted this: “Carl #Paladino says he will not run for Rep. Chris Lee’s spot. He says many people pushing for NYS Assemblymember Jane Corwin.”

Extras

Former Rep. Chris Lee and his wife in happier days – just three months ago – on Election Night, 2010.

For the record, Lee is 46, not 39.

Goodbye, Sen. Jim Webb.

New leadership positions from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. (More on this when I’m not up to my ears in Lee resignation fallout, but some new posts of note, based on openings and churn from departures): Deputy Majority Whip went to Barbara Clark, Keith Wright got Labor, Jim Brennan got Corporations, Vivian Cook has the Committee on Committees, Small Business is William Scarborough).

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’ll push for the Legislature to take up the same-sex marriage bill this session.

Former Gov. David Paterson will guest host the John Gambling show on WOR next week.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy was bipartisan before bipartisan was cool.

Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Task Force is sifting through more than 2,000 recommendations to reduce the cost of the massive program.

Rudy Giuliani vs. the “left-wing media.”

What you need to know about CPAC.

First Lady Michelle Obama insists the president isn’t covering up his gray.

NYC students saw gains on AP tests last year.

Opponents of NYC Schools Chancellor Cathie Black will appeal a court decision upholding the state Education Department’s decision to award her the waiver she needed to do her job.

Bloomberg 2012: Highly unlikely.

What do the Cuomos have against county fairs?

Here’s Lee behaving himself in a professional manner on the Internet. (H/T Azi Paybarah).

Let The NY-26 Jockeying Begin (Updatedx4)

I just got off the phone with Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy, who managed Chris Lee’s first congressional run back in 2008, and he said he’s “a little bit in a state of shock right now” over Lee’s abrupt resignation following today’s Gawker story.

“I’m surprised by what I see here,” Langworthy told me. “Hopefully, he gets things in order in his life.”

The chairman said he did speak briefly today with Lee, but hasn’t talked to him since his resignation statement was released late this afternoon.

Now, of course, the speculation machine is in high gear as to who will replace Lee in the House – a post that could be rather short-lived, considering that NY-26 is one of the districts that could be cut in the next round of redistricting (remember that New York is slated to lose two seats).

It’s up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo whether – and if so, when – to call a special election (recall that former Gov. David Paterson angered NY-29 pols by deciding to hold the special to replace former Rep. Eric Massa concurrent with the November 2010 general election).

UPDATE: For a primer on how this special election thing works, go to the bottom of this post and read what election attorney Jerry Goldfeder just sent me.

If there is a special election, it’s up to the party leaders to pick a candidate (which went so swimmingly well in the NY-23 special election to replace former Rep. John McHugh). The district includes all or parts of Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming counties.

NY-26 is GOP-dominated in terms of enrollment – 147,732 Democrats to 174,205 Republicans, according to the state Board of Elections. It has long been a GOP-held seat. Lee replaced former Rep. Tom Reynolds, who declined to seek re-election after surviving the Mark Foley congressional page scandal.

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Lee Resigns

It’s special election time again. Rep. Chris Lee just sent out the following statement:

“It has been a tremendous honor to serve the people of Western New York. I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents.”

“I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness.”

“The challenges we face in Western New York and across the country are too serious for me to allow this distraction to continue, and so I am announcing that I have resigned my seat in Congress effective immediately.”

…At least he didn’t drag it out.

‘I Have To Work This Out With My Wife’

Fox News caught up with Rep. Chris Lee as he was walking to his car in Washington, D.C. and reports the married GOP congressman declined to comment on the Gawker story about his alleged flirtation with a woman on Craigslist.

The only thing Lee would say was: “I have to work this out with my wife.”

The Buffalo-area congressman told Fox he hadn’t read the Gawker story and refused to confirm he is the shirtless man in the photo provided to the site by the 34-year-old Maryland woman with whom he – or whoever accessed his Gmail account and BlackBerry – corresponded.

Lee’s office told Fox it has no comment “at this time.” YNN Buffalo and CapTon have yet to receive a response to our multiple e-mails and calls seeking a statement and/or explanation.

I spoke this afternoon to several Buffalo Republicans who flatly rejected Lee’s claim that that his e-mail account was hacked, but we’re still awaiting word from the congressman himself.