The New York State Republican Party filed a lawsuit Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Monroe County asking a judge to compel the governor to call a special election as soon as possible for NY’s vacant 27th Congressional seat.
“We feel no choice here but to sue Governor Cuomo to do his job, just like other political leaders have had to do in the past, to call a special election within this district,” state GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy said.
Republican Chris Collins resigned in late September, a day ahead of his guilty plea on federal insider trading charges. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, is mandated by law to call a special election to fill the opening but has typically had discretion as to when he calls it.
Cuomo has indicated on several occasions – including during a stop in Western New York last week – he is leaning toward holding the election on April 28, 2020 – the same day as the presidential primary. The governor said it makes fiscal sense to hold the elections on the same day when there will already be staff, polling places, and voting machines available.
He pointed out a special election can easily cost taxpayers more than $1 million. However, Republicans believe holding the congressional special and presidential primary at the same time would give Democrats an unfair advantage since there will be no GOP primary race.
NY-27 is widely-considered the reddest district in the state, but an already-indicted Collins barely defeated Democrat Nate McMurray in 2018. Some, including McMurray – who is expected to be the party’s designee again – believe an April 28 election could help push him over the edge.
“(Cuomo’s) had six weeks to get the job done,” Langworthy said. “He hasn’t done it. He’s clinging to a date that he expects to try to rig the outcome of this election and we’re not going to stand for it.”
The lawsuit however, doesn’t explicitly mention the April 28 date. Rather it makes the argument the 750,000 residents in the district aren’t getting the representation they are entitled to under the Constitution.
Langworthy said that is the crux of the problem.
“They’re without representation at the federal level for a long time,” he said. “Even if we had a special election in April, at the end of April, think about how much time has elapsed that they’ve had no voice in Congress.
Last year, seven voters in the state’s 25th Congressional district sued Cuomo to force an earlier special election, as well. However, a judge threw that suit out after the plaintiffs failed to show cause regarding why the case should not be dismissed.
In a separate 2015 case, a judge did set a deadline for the governor to call the election to replace convicted NY-11 Rep. Michael Grimm or the court would do it for him. Langworthy said this challenge is very similar.
“The governor lost that lawsuit,” he said. “He had to call the special election in Staten Island. I believe the same will happen here.”
However, if the February 20 deadline set in the Grimm case was held as the standard, it would still allow Cuomo to still call the NY-27 election on April 28. Langworthy said this is a different timeline and believes the deadline would be sooner.
The suit asked for the judge to require the governor to issue the proclamation for the election within 5 days of a court order. Under the law, the election must be held between 70 and 80 days of the declaration.
Langworthy and two individual voters are listed as the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Cuomo is the lone defendant.
We’ve reached out to the governor’s office for comment.