At this point, the idea that Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul might run against Western New York Rep. Chris Collins to reclaim her former congressional seat is more of a parlor game for New York politicos than a live possibility. For one thing, there is already a Democratic candidate, Nate McMurray, who has been endorsed by county party officials. For another, it’s a solidly Republican district. Finally, Hochul herself seems uninterested in challenging Collins to a rematch after their bruising 2012 contest.
This did not preclude Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Hochul’s running mate and ostensible ally, from suggesting that Hochul “would be the best chance the Democrats have” against Collins a full week after the deadline, on April 19. He did acknowledge that Hochul was unwilling to take the plunge and run for Congress.
Perhaps the governor, like a few reporters, present company included, was unaware that the deadline had passed. But it’s also theoretically possible for Hochul to still run as an independent (one who would, presumably, caucus with the Democrats in Congress if she won.)
According to state election law, a candidate can begin collecting federal nominating petitions to get on the ballot by creating a new minor party in the November election. This year, the candidate can begin collecting petitions on June 19, and must file them between July 24 and July 31.
Sarah Steiner, an attorney specializing in election law, said a candidate would have to essentially create a party, picking a name that no one else was using and that would not be confused with another party, and then collect enough signatures to get on the ballot.
While a major party candidate collecting petitions to enter the federal congressional primary must collect 1,250 signatures, a candidate who wants to get on the ballot for an independent party must get 3,500 signatures. Unlike in a primary, anyone could vote for a candidate on an independent party line in November, meaning that there is a larger voter base, and so a greater number of petitions are needed to make the cut. “As a realistic matter, it is much harder to get the multiple of the signatures that you need for Congress on an independent party line,” Steiner said.
The only way for Hochul to get on the Democratic Party line would be if McMurray dropped out after the primary. Legally, a candidate could win the Democratic primary and then choose to decline the nomination. At that point, the party committee would choose the new nominee.
In this case, that is just as implausible as Hochul running as a minor party candidate. McMurray bristled at what he perceived as Cuomo’s attempts to meddle in the congressional race.
“Anything’s possible, but I would think it’s extremely unlikely,” Steiner said of the potential for Hochul to become the Democratic nominee in this race.
Realistically, barring some unforeseen development, neither path to getting on the November ballot in a Republican-held district is going to appeal to the lieutenant governor.