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Potential successors line up for Wirth's seat

Gov. George E. Pataki has ordered state flags lowered to half staff Thursday in honor of Assemblywoman Sandra Lee Wirth, R-Elma, who died of cancer Saturday.

"A tough, smart and courageous public servant, Sandra worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for her constituents and all New York voters," Pataki said Monday.

The governor is expected to call a special election to fill the remainder of Wirth's term.

"It's the governor's option to call a special election, and generally he does," said Bob Brehm, chairman of the executive board of the State Association of Election Commissioners.

Pataki is not expected to set a date until after the assemblywoman's funeral Thursday, according to several sources.

Several names as potential successors have begun to surface.

On the Democratic side, Leonard R. Lenihan, the party's Erie County chairman, said he is aware of two interested candidates: Jeffrey Bono, a Democratic activist who ran unsuccessfully against Wirth in 2004, and Laura Monty, a former aide to Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter and now a Southtowns businesswoman.

Lenihan said at least one other candidate could pursue the nomination, to be made by Democratic Committee members from the 142nd Assembly District.

Carl J. Calabrese, executive director of the Erie County Republican Committee, emphasized that no immediate action is expected. But he cited Michael Nolan, Elma supervisor, and Michael Cole, an Alden Town Board member, as possible candidates.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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