ROCHESTER – The New York State GOP went to court Thursday seeking to quickly schedule a special election for the vacated seat of former Rep. Chris Collins, but managed only a postponement of their suit against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Justice John J. Ark of State Supreme Court in Rochester granted an adjournment until Jan. 13 in the state Republican Party effort to force Cuomo into slating an election before the April 28 date he has hinted at. The state gained the delay after Ted O’Brien, assistant attorney general in charge of the Rochester regional office, said he had only been presented the case Thursday morning.
But Joseph T. Burns, a Buffalo attorney representing the party, noted the state was served with the suit’s legal papers on Dec. 16 and asked the judge to order Cuomo to immediately schedule an election date. He said the 30-day postponement sought by O’Brien would only further delay the process.
“We believe it’s the duty of the governor under the federal Constitution and state Constitution to fill vacancies ... when vacancies occur,” Burns said.
”I don’t see where any time is warranted since the Governor’s Office was served on Dec. 16. Thirty days is certainly beyond the pale,” he added. “Any further delay is really inappropriate and further disenfranchises the people of the 27th District.”
Ark, however, cited previous court decisions involving the resignations of former Reps. Michael Grimm of Staten Island and Eric Massa of Corning that may serve as legal precedents, and asked why it took Republicans until December to file the litigation when Collins’ guilty plea to federal insider trading charges forced his resignation on Sept. 30.
“We gave the governor the benefit of the doubt about calling a special election,” Burns said. “By early December it was clear he was sitting on his hands and leaving the people of this district unrepresented.”
Throughout his tenure as governor, Cuomo has expressed his preference for special elections to coincide with those already scheduled in order to save money. As recently as one month ago while visiting Buffalo, the governor cited concerns about a potential $1 million cost and low turnout.
Republicans, however, have noted the expected high participation of Democrats in an April 28 contest – the same day as the state’s presidential primary that could feature a host of those seeking to challenge President Trump in November.
“Gov. Cuomo is playing politics with the special election, while the people of Western New York are being denied the representation they are entitled to in Congress,” state Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy said at the time the suit was filed.