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It's nothing new when a politician nearing retirement tries to wield some kingmaker power by mentioning the name of a possible successor.

But eyebrows are being raised in Albany about the man being talked up by Rep. Amo Houghton as his possible replacement someday soon: Assemblyman William Parment of Jamestown.

For starters, Houghton, first elected to represent the Southern Tier in 1986, is a loyal Republican. Parment is a loyal Democrat.

And then there's the little matter that Parment could be the savior Houghton has been looking for to help him save the large congressional district that many believe is high up among those on the chopping block when the state loses two congressional seats next year as the result of national population shifts. Parment is co-chairman of the state legislative task force that will decide New York's congressional district lines during the next year.

But Parment, a middle-of-the-road politician by Albany standards who has helped build up the Democratic Party in Chautauqua County, is also believed by many political insiders to be the only Democrat with a chance of winning Houghton's seat when he retires.

"I'd hope there would be a good Republican, but Bill is a good guy, and he ought to consider it," said Houghton, who turns 75 in August. He said Parment is "wise" and has "great instincts."

As Democrats talk of trying to gain control of Congress in the 2002 elections, such talk by Houghton might be considered politically traitorous by some Republicans. But Houghton talks of his top priority these days: keeping the Southern Tier represented in Congress and not as a distant appendage of a district that could stretch to Rochester or somewhere else far beyond the area.

"I'm not fighting for myself," he said of his mission to preserve the seat. It is among a few upstate Republican seats being considered for elimination as the reapportionment process moves forward in Albany during the coming weeks.

Parment has already said one of his top reasons for seeking the redistricting post was to protect seats in Western New York. So is he interested in Houghton's seat? "I haven't ruled it in or out," Parment said last week.

"For years and years, I sort of had as a personal grail a sense that I'd like to be a member of the House of Representatives. It was always a tantalizing prospect," said Parment, 58, elected to the Assembly in 1982.

But Parment said he also doubts a congressional run can happen, in part because the district is so solidly Republican once it moves eastward from the portion of his 150th Assembly District that he shares with Houghton's 31st Congressional District.

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