County Legislator Raymond W. Walter is emerging as the leading Republican candidate to succeed retiring Assemblyman James P. Hayes of East Amherst in a district traditionally considered solid turf for the GOP.
Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy said Monday that Walter's effort to move on to Albany provides a double bonus to the GOP, since his potential exit from the Legislature allows a fellow Republican lawmaker, Edward A. Rath III, to run in their combined district. Earlier this month, Rath announced he would retire from the Legislature rather than challenge Walter in a primary after redistricting placed them in the same district.
"We didn't want to lose him," Langworthy said of Rath. "But now he gets a second bite at the apple because the game has changed a bit."
Hayes announced Aug. 22 that he would resign from the Assembly to take a private-sector position with Ayco Co., a Goldman Sachs-owned firm based in suburban Albany that provides financial planning services to corporate executives. Since then, GOP leaders have settled on Walter as their best shot at retaining the seat.
"Ray has emerged as a rock solid candidate from top to bottom," Langworthy said. "He is a real conservative voice in the Legislature and by far is the best candidate our party can put forward."
The chairman said he expects Walter to formally announce his candidacy later in the week.
Democrats, meanwhile, have yet to settle on a candidate.
"It certainly wasn't our intention, but it has all worked out," Langworthy said of Walter and Rath. "Everyone is excited about the prospects for both candidates."
Langworthy said he expects a special election will be held Nov. 8 -- the day of the next general election -- to fill the Hayes seat. Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph M. Mohr was unavailable to comment on the timing for the election.