Although voters did not get to choose their party nominees in this month’s special elections, they will get to vote for the candidates they didn’t choose after a very short campaigning period. Eleven state senators and Assembly members were elected or appointed to other positions last fall, leaving their seats vacant. On Feb. 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order declaring that special elections would be held on April 24, triggering a scramble for candidates to be chosen by county party leaders and make their cases to voters within 80 days. Here is a guide to the candidates vying for those vacant seats.
State Senate District 32
Three candidates are looking to fill now-New York City Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr.’s cowboy hat as the new state senator from the Bronx’s 32nd District. Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda has the Democratic nomination sewn up, while Pamela Stewart-Martinez is running on the Reform Party line and Hunter College professor Patrick Delices is the Republican nominee. Voters in the heavily Democratic district are likely to elect Sepúlveda, which would then trigger the need for another special election to fill his vacant Assembly seat. Cuomo recently endorsed Sepúlveda.
State Senate District 37
The fight for former state Sen. George Latimer’s Westchester County seat is being closely watched by both parties. If the Democrats win both the 32nd and 37th Senate districts, it would bring the recently reunited state Senate Democrats a step closer to seizing power. However, this Senate seat has been a battleground in the past, with Republican Bob Cohen losing narrowly to Democrat Suzi Oppenheimer in 2010 and Latimer in 2012.
Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer was designated the Democratic nominee before a special election date was even chosen. In March, a state judge ruled that Mayer could not hold the Independence Party ballot line, finding that procedural requirements to get the party’s endorsement were not followed. However, Mayer does have the Working Families Party endorsement. Former Rye City Councilwoman Julie Killian was chosen as the Republican nominee for the seat in February. Cuomo has endorsed Mayer, and appeared at a rally with her on March 11. He also appeared at a fundraiser with Mayer on April 3 in Manhattan.
Assembly District 5
After Assemblyman Al Graf won an election for District Court judge in Islip, his former aide Doug Smith declared his candidacy for his old boss’s seat. But while Smith has the Republican nomination, there was some drama around who he would be facing. After Democratic nominee Peter Zarcone dropped out of the race in early February, Suffolk County Democrats nominated Deborah Slinkosky, a former Sachem Central School District Board of Education member. Cuomo was set to visit Long Island on April 8 for a rally for Democrats, but the emphasis was placed on Suffolk County’s congressional and state Senate races.
Assembly District 10
Former Republican Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci was elected supervisor of Huntington in November, leaving his Suffolk County seat vacant. There are 6,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in the district and former Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern has the Democratic nomination, while attorney Janet Smitelli is on the Republican line. This seat is considered winnable by state Democrats – the Suffolk County Democratic Committee and Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee plan to spend $120,000 on behalf of Stern in the race. Stern has also been endorsed by the WFP.
Assembly District 17
Former Assemblyman Thomas McKevitt traded his seat in the Assembly for one in the Nassau County Legislature. Democrat Matthew Malin, a county Board of Elections employee, will face Republican John Mikulin, a deputy attorney for the town of Hempstead, in the special election. The GOP holds a 9,000-person registration advantage in the district. While this seat is likely to remain in Republican hands, recent corruption scandals in Nassau County and dissatisfaction with Nassau County Republican Party Chairman Joseph Mondello may work against Mikulin. The party has given $5,000 to Mikulin, while Malin, who has also been endorsed by the WFP, had received nothing from county Democrats as of the end of March. If Malin wins, it could be a wake-up call for Republicans in Nassau County.
Assembly District 39
Two candidates are vying for now-New York City Councilman Francisco Moya’s former seat. Aridia Espinal, a former staffer to Moya, received the Democratic nomination for the Queens seat in February. She has received endorsements from Moya, New York State United Teachers and the WFP. Catalina Cruz, a DACA recipient who served as chief of staff to former City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, is aiming to take on Espinal in the September primary. The Queens GOP is not fielding a candidate.
Assembly District 74
This seat has been vacant since December, when Brian Kavanagh was sworn in as the state senator replacing former state Sen. Daniel Squadron, who resigned in the middle of his term. Housing activist Harvey Epstein has the momentum in the race to replace Kavanagh, sewing up nominations from major city figures like New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and city Comptroller Scott Stringer, and edging out Mike Corbett, an aide to City Councilman Costa Constantinides, for the Democratic nomination. Epstein is also on the WFP line. Bryan Cooper was endorsed for the Republican nomination by the Manhattan Republican Party. Also running are Green Party candidate Adrienne Craig-Williams and Reform Party candidate Juan Pagan.
Assembly District 80
Former Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, who is now a New York City councilman, likely left his seat safely in Democratic hands, as the district has a wide Democratic voter registration advantage. Nathalia Fernandez, Gjonaj’s former chief of staff, won the Democratic nomination for the Bronx seat in February. Adam Bermudez, an aide to City Councilman Andy King, has filed a campaign committee with the state Board of Elections, but has not listed any financial disclosures.
Assembly District 102
Former Republican Assemblyman Peter Lopez became the Region 2 regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency in October, leaving his GOP-leaning Greene County seat vacant. Aidan O’Connor is running on the Democratic, Working Families Party and Women’s Equality Party lines, while town of Schoharie Supervisor Christopher Tague is on the Republican, Conservative Party, Independence Party and Reform Party lines. An independent candidate, Wes Laraway, is also on the ballot.
Assembly District 107
Republican Assemblyman Steven McLaughlin was elected Rensselaer County executive in November. Two Rensselaer County legislators are now squaring off against each other for the vacant seat in a district with registration evenly split between the two major parties. Democrat Cindy Doran, who was just elected to her second term in the county legislature, is on the Democratic, Working Families Party and Women’s Equality Party lines. Republican Jake Ashby, who was just elected to the legislature in November, is on the Republican, Independence Party and Conservative Party lines.
Assembly District 142
Assemblyman Michael Kearns was elected Erie County clerk in November. His vacant seat is being targeted by two Democrats – although one is running on the Republican Party line. Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke is on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines, while Democrat Erik Bohen, a public school teacher, was tapped by Republican county leaders, although he would caucus with the Democrats if he won. This is not the first time that Republicans have endorsed a Democrat for the Buffalo-area seat. In 2012, Kearns won his special election by running on the Republican line and beating the Democratic nominee.