Kevin Frisch: A not-so-special election

Kevin Frisch

Say this about New York Gov. David Paterson — he’s got a sense of humor. Unfortunately, that seems to be the only sense he has.

How else to explain his finally setting the date for a special election for the state’s 29th Congressional District ... on Election Day? He’s going to let us go most of the year without representation in the House and then allow us to elect someone to serve for — what? Six weeks? And we all know how vital it is that elective offices are filled during those important holiday recesses.

With this strange, improbable and, frankly, insulting decision, our governor has finally regressed from pathetic to parody. He no longer deserves to be ranked even among the likes of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois; he’s now somewhere in the company of former Gov. William J. Le Petomane of “Blazing Saddles.”

“I have worked closely with representatives from Western New York to determine the best possible timing to fill a vacancy in the 29th Congressional District,” Paterson said in a press release announcing his decision.

The “best possible timing” for Democrats, anyway (by which I mean party functionaries, not enrolled voters). The party’s chances in the district were downgraded from “prohibitive favorite” to “long shot” when former Rep. Eric Massa resigned in early March. As such, Democrats have been as cavalier about seeing a special election scheduled as Republicans have been eager. Erstwhile GOP challenger Tom Reed suddenly found himself the best-known, best-funded candidate in the field, and the voting couldn’t come soon enough for him.

Alas, Reed and his party — not to mention voters of all political stripes — found themselves the victim of Paterson’s wicked humor. The Republican candidate won’t be able to run in the general election as an incumbent. And some 650,000 district residents won’t see their interests represented in the House as measures like finance reform and, potentially, immigration are debated.

Paterson, in his press release, listed his reasons for not wanting to hold a special election sooner:

• “Serious concerns over the rollout of new electronic voting machines in several counties within the district.”

So the district will hold two elections for the same seat on the same day (the special election and the general election). That ought to minimize any potential complications.

• “The possible disenfranchisement of overseas military voters.”

So instead of them possibly not being fully represented in Washington; everyone in the district definitely won’t be represented.

• “Local financial burden of holding a special election so close to the regular election cycle.”

It wouldn’t have been so close if Paterson had called the election immediately following Massa’s resignation. In theory, the vote could have been held by now.

The governor had already amassed a lengthy record of ineffectiveness: 9-plus percent spending increase last year; withholding state income tax returns; taxing sodas and other sweet drinks; an aborted plan to force New Yorkers to buy new, more-expensive license plates.

All of which leads to just one more question regarding early special elections: Can we hold one for governor?

Contact Kevin Frisch at (585) 394-0770, ext. 257, or via e-mail at