Two leading Democrats on Monday dropped out of the race to succeed State Sen. Patricia K. McGee, while the expected Republican candidate already was gearing up for the short sprint to the May 10 special election.
A day after Gov. George E. Pataki set a one-month campaign for the seat held by McGee, the Franklinville Republican who died last week, Assemblyman William L. Parment and Chautauqua County Executive Mark W. Thomas said Monday they were not running.
That, sources said, leaves one major Democratic contender: Nancy Bargar, a former Chautauqua County legislator narrowly defeated when she sought the seat in the 1990s.
Bargar said she had been awaiting Parment's decision but already had been in contact with Democratic leaders from the four Southern Tier counties in the district.
Parment, of North Harmony, said late Monday he decided against running because, having served in the Assembly since 1982, he did not want his constituents to lose the benefits of his seniority.
He said he also feared a Democrat might not win his Assembly seat if he moved to the Senate.
"For the best interests of my county, I should stay put," he said.
Thomas, who said he will not run "for personal and professional reasons" declined to elaborate.
With the district overwhelmingly Republican, Bargar said a special election is the Democrats' best chance to win the seat.
Democrats, who picked up three GOP seats last fall, have predicted they could win control of the State Senate as early as next year.
The Republicans now control the chamber, 34-27, with one vacancy resulting from McGee's death.
Assemblywoman Catharine Young of Olean, the likely Republican candidate, is expected to announce her bid this week.
With the GOP edge in registration, the short campaign period resulting from Pataki's scheduling of the special election boosts Young's chances.
Monday, she received the endorsement of the region's Conservative Party leaders.
McGee, 70, died after battling pneumonia and related conditions.
The mostly rural 57th State Senate District has 73,000 Republicans and 60,000 Democrats, and consists of all or parts of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Livingston counties.