NY-26: Chris Lee Resigns

Holy cow, that was fast. In mid-afternoon, it comes out that Chris Lee sent some schmaltzy beefcake photos of himself to some lady on Craigslist other than his wife; by evening, he’s already resigned. (Whatever happened to courageously gutting it out, like David Vitter and John Ensign?)

Married NY-26 Rep. Chris Lee has just announced that he is resigning in the wake of scandal set off by a damning Gawker report of him scamming on chicks on Craigslist….

“The challenges we face in Western New York and across the country are too serious for me to allow this distraction to continue, and so I am announcing that I have resigned my seat in Congress effective immediately.”

So much for my earlier proclamations that this wasn’t going to endanger his political career. Oh, well, as a wag on Twitter said (regarding his half-assed identity-obscuring efforts on Craigslist):

Now he can be exactly what he had pretended to be — a divorced lobbyist.

It looks like Andrew Cuomo will be left to call a special election in NY-26, an R+6 district that stretches from the Buffalo suburbs to the Rochester suburbs. With this suddenly on the redistricting chopping block, though, will anyone bother to run? (And you know who’s gotta be the happiest about this happening? NY-25’s Ann Marie Buerkle!) Will we see another Dem primary standoff between Jon Powers and crazy Jack Davis? (Refer back to our 2008 archives if that doesn’t ring a bell.)

UPDATE: In case you were wondering if there were a way for this to get even more hilarious:

A source close to former guv cand Carl Paladino, who is from the district, tells me he’s being “heavily lobbied” to run in a special.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s a big handy list of potential candidates, in addition to Paladino (for whom being one of 435 may be too small a canvas for his expansive ego):

For the GOP:

• Erie Co. Exec. Chris Collins (who got a bit of gubernatorial buzz in 2010)

• state Sen. George Maziarz (can’t see the GOP being happy with the possibility of risking losing their new state Senate majority, though)

• state Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer

• Assemblywoman Jane Corwin

• Assemblyman Jim Hayes

• Assemblyman and Monroe Co. GOP chair Bill Reilich

• Monroe Co. Exec. Maggie Brooks

• Ex-Assemblyman Jack Quinn (the son of the former Buffalo-area GOP Rep.)

• Ex-Rep. Tom Reynolds (one reporter says he’s getting “antsy” as a lobbyist, and maybe the stench of l’affaire Mark Foley has worn off)

For the Dems:

• Erie Co. Comptroller Mark Poloncarz

• Eric Co. Clerk Kathy Hochul

And if you’re wondering about the special election process, the Governor must call a special election (because this happened so early in the term, it’s not comparable to how David Paterson was essentially able to pocket-veto a NY-29 special election in the wake of Eric Massa’s resignation until November). The Gov still has discretion about when he calls it, though, and there’s a fast turnaround, with the election happening 30-40 days after the Gov’s call. As you probably remember from the debacles (for the GOP) in the NY-20 and NY-23 special elections, the nominees are chosen by a weighted vote of the county party committees, rather than by primary.

118 thoughts on “NY-26: Chris Lee Resigns”

  1. In the 26th, Dems appear to have only two state assembly members who represent parts of the district, Robin Schimminger in the 140th (though he lives in Kenmore which is outside the district) and Dennis Gabryszak in the 143rd, though he also is not a resident of the 26th.

    With that said, given the low esteem in which the New York State Legislature is held, that’s not a death knell for Dems.

    My first thought is that it’s not an unwinnable district for Dems, who will, if I remember correctly from the NY-20th/23rd specials (Tediscomania and Scozzafavaed!), be able to handpick their desired candidate. Worth the effort in my book.

  2. would be a bad thing. He’ll run and win, but his notoriety will make Democrats feel compelled to spend there.

    Not only that, but he could pose trouble for other D incumbents after redistricting.  

  3.  About this district. In 2008, Obama did pretty well in Upstate New York and lost only two districts up there. This was one of those districts. He lost it 46/52 and I think it was the most Republican district in New York at that election. Still, the scandal by the Republican may make the Republican party here look bad.


  4. I wrote up the RRH daily digest today and didn’t even bother to include this because I assumed Gawker=idle gossip. As it turned out, I was very wrong.

  5. After his humiliating loss last year? I know he extremely well in Western Upstate New York and didn’t end up having any negative coattails, but he really made the state party look bad. I could see him winning a primary easily though…

  6. I’d like to point out here that since 2008, this is the third House member from New York to either resign or decline to run for reelection due to a sex scandal (or something approximating one). There must be something in the water all over the state.

  7. Shouldn’t Dems contest this, especially if the nominee is Paladino?  If Dems win, they can force the GOP to eliminate another GOP district upstate.  Plus, they probably won’t face a great candidate, since if the GOP wins it’s a redistricting target regardless, dissuading stronger candidates from running.

  8. For real?

    Christopher Lee stepped down because of an infidelity scandal.

    Carl Paladino kept a second family, fathering a child with his mistress.

    Would the Republicans really fail to see the irony of that kind of replacement?

    (Yes, I know, they would do it without the slightest sense of irony or shame…)

  9. Someone with a good profile not currently in elective office. What bigger companies are there in the district? Any Kodak or Bausch and Lomb execs active in D politics? (I’d suggest David Nachbar, but he’s in NY-29.)

  10. when your country can get through one year without some politician up in Washington getting caught up in a sex scandal, either gay or straight? Chris Lee, Eric Massa, David Vitter, John Ensign, Mark Foley, Tim Mahoney.

    Hey, let’s all try to guest who’ll be next!

  11. This is out of the blue. And I thought Webb would be the big news of the day. I did not think he would resign, this is definitely a shock. Really I think he could have recovered from this. At the very least he could have served out his term. This is a good thing as it balances out Harmon’s lost vote in Congress. Though the thought of Crazy Carl in Congress is not particularly appetizing. Though it would be kind of fun to see him swinging that bat on capitol hill.  

  12. people are now saying he used his real name on wikipedia. Is there any truth to this? Wow, now that would be stupid.  

  13. Add another couple of Dem names?

    Kathy Konst, an Erie legislator, considered running in the Dem primary 26th in 2008, but instead ran and lost for State Senate. Now an appointed commissioner in Erie.



    Since 2008, Jon Powers has served as Chief Operating Officer at the Truman National Security Project, and has been active in Netroots. Here’s a couple of videos of him:




  14. I can’t find anything that actually says the governor of NY actually has to call a special election to fill a congressional vacancy, just that the election must be held within 30 to 40 days after he does call for one.

    The operative law appears to me to be the Public Officers Law, particularly this bit:

    3. Upon [irrelevant material elided] the occurrence of a vacancy in any elective office which cannot be filled by appointment for a period extending to or beyond  the next  general  election  at  which  a person may be elected thereto, the governor may in his discretion make proclamation of a  special  election to  fill  such  office,  specifying  the district or county in which the election is to be held, and the day thereof, which  shall  be  not  less than thirty nor more than forty days from the date of the proclamation.

     4.  A  special  election  shall  not  be held to fill a vacancy in the office of a representative in congress unless such vacancy occurs on  or before  the first day of July of the last year of the term of office, or unless it occurs thereafter and a special session of congress is  called to  meet  before the next general election, or be called after September nineteenth of such year[non-relevant portion elided]. If a special election to fill an office shall not be held as required by law,  the  office  shall  be  filled  at  the  next  general election.

    I Am Not A Lawyer and so on, but the key bits I see are “the governor may in his discretion” in paragraph 3 and the lack of any actual timeframe specified in paragraph four, which only specifies the conditions under which a special election may NOT be held. Paragraph 4 doesn’t actually say “If these conditions do not apply then a special election MUST be held,” they just say “under these conditions a special election MAY NOT be held.”

    Could he just leave the seat vacant for the next two years and deny the Republicans a House seat?

  15. If this is all there is, I don’t think its enough to resign your seat in Congress. This must be the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

  16. a picture of (the actor) Christopher Lee in Dracula getup right away, there’s just too much fun in this.

  17. This seems like an excuse to do something he wanted to do anyway. If he wanted to stay in Congress he could easily ride this out.

  18.  Lost the Gubernatorial election 62%-34% but only because he was crushed Downstate (he lost Staten Island by 17 points.) Paladino did well in Upstate though, losing Monroe County (Rochester) and winning Erie County with 58% and Niagra County with 60% +. The 26th has the most Republican parts of Erie and Niagra Counties. If voters in that election stuck with the far right Paladino, then it is very likely they will stick with him in a special election.  

  19. She represented Genesee County and the northern parts of Livingston County with parts of eastern Monroe County in the 1980s after Barber Conable retired.  It was redistricted in the 1990s, probably to strengthen her as she gained a district that was only Monroe County.  In the 2000 redistricting, the current GLOW district was created to support Tom Reynolds.

  20. As almost everyone here knows – this is (roughly on par with 29th) the most republican district in NY. If party chairs learned their lessons from the past and will agree on non-offensive pragmatic conservative – Democrats will have next to zero chances. But there is always chance for crazy Paladino-like candidate…))))

  21. On reflection, I don’t think this will be too bad. We can’t win that seat anyway, and it’s going nowhere in redistricting (geography).  

  22. And probably keeps the district past redistricting.

    I’m coming to the view that this isn’t really a big deal, though.

  23. Though he could win if nominated, I think the GOP county chairs would be wise to pick somebody less flamboyantly insane than Paladino. As we saw in November, his outlandish behavior repels independent voters. If he were regularly putting on his clown show as a member of Congress, wouldn’t that hurt the state GOP’s 2012 chances in other NY congressional, state and local races?

  24. He probably only won Erie and Niagara because Cuomo is a typical downstate politician while Paladino tried to play the role of a fighter for Western New York in Albany (against the downstate devils who they think have an outsized role in state government; population and wealth be damned!). A local Dem pol would make it a closer race.

  25. that wasn’t me, just passing along someone else’s tweet.

    Speaking of which, here’s one that’s even better, from the Wall Street Journal‘s Jonathan Weisman:

    Back story on Chris Lee is gonna be juicy. Lots of reporters were chasing it this fall. None of us could break it.

  26. What’s the attitude of rural western NY towards politicos from Buffalo? Yeah I know the guy’s from Amherst, but that’s a Buffalo suburb.

    OTOH, what proportion of the district’s population is from metro Buffalo/Niagara Falls? Perhaps a politico from that area is what we want.

  27. Tom Reynolds retired in 2008 largely because of the Mark Foley sex scandal (although he himself was never caught with his pants down.)

  28. Let’s see: Randy Kuhl, Eric Massa, John “fratboy” Sweeney, all winners from upstate

    Tom Reynolds and Sue Kelly (Hudson Valley) were involved in the Foley cover-up.

    The city got Vito Fosella and Charles Rangel.

    Nan Hayworth and Ann Marie Buerkle seem ripe to be the next loser pols from the state.

    And the state senate is even worse!

  29. The DCCC is skilled at winning specials, and the party has done well with upstate NY recruiting. Murphy and Owens came from outside the realm of elected officials, and won their respective specials. Obviously Murphy is now gone and Owens has had circumstantial help, but a win is a win. I’d like to see a serious recruitment effort – ESPECIALLY if Paladino’s the nominee. There’s always the potential for him to implode some more, and it would be interesting to see a strident social conservative running at at time when the GOP Congress is obsessed with talking about abortion.

    I also tend to think Paladino’s regional strength was enhanced by the fact that Cuomo’s win was always a fait accompli – “he’s crazy, but he’s OUR crazy, and it’s not like he’ll win anyway.” Some of that might evaporate in a competitive race.  

  30. And he’s from the next town over. The GOP label helped of course, but I don’t think being from Amherst is a killer. The Erie County towns make up about 30% of the district’s population; that’s almost all Buffalo metro with a small rural piece thrown in.  

  31. Much of that is rural and not particularly metropolitan, though North Tonawanda (31K residents) is close to Buffalo in both a physical and demographic sense.

  32. is known to have many ethical issues.  steven latourette and ken calvert have already had sex scandals back in the 90s.  john ensign’s still in office, as is vitter, so you never know.

    but my money’s on lee terry

  33. are geeks like us who aren’t used to being showered with power and temptation. There will be scandals like this for as long as we have a democratic society.

  34. Seems like the only guy recently who’s lost almost entirely because of a sex scandal – and he represented a Republican district and with the whole succeeding Mark Foley thing… Hell, Republicans & Conservatives in New York were talking about nominating Vito Fossella again in 2010. Vito Fossella!

  35. has nothing on Congressman Burton who has fathered at least one and more than likely much more. Someone who worked in the legislator at the time told me that he bordered on a sex addict.  

  36. If he’s that dumb, he did his constituents a favor by resigning so they aren’t represented by someone who isn’t too bright.  

  37. According to Gawker: “It’s the same Gmail account that was associated with Lee’s personal Facebook account, which the Congressman deleted when we started asking questions.” [emphasis mine]

    Yeah, he didn’t even bother to create a fake-ish email address for his cruising, he used his actual Gmail address. How techno-dumb do you have to be, etc., etc.?

  38. says (in reference to legislative seats) that POL § 42 does not, by its text, appear to require a special election, but that (as of 2009) the author knows of no circumstance where one has not been called.  

  39. I seriously doubt it considering the resignation happening barely a month after the convening of Congress. Only if it was decided way in advance that this district would disappear would Cuomo consider such an action, and even then it just seems too political not to mention unfair to the residents of the 26th to go nearly 20 months without a representative compared to about 7 months for NY-29 after Massa resigned. And of course the fact that completely eliminating the district could be quite tricky as some other commentators have said based on population shifts.

    Nonetheless this is a Republican held district (compared to the NY-29 Dem held one) and Cuomo and the other Democrats don’t have anything to lose by scheduling a special election.  

  40. Massa resigned in March 2010, and the special election was delayed to coincide with the regular November 2010 election.

    Cuomo could, theoretically, delay the election until November 2012 — but it would be politically stupid, by inviting significant upstate resentment against Democrats (who have made huge upstate inroads in recent years). If the balance in the House was only a couple of seats, that might be worth the risk, but with Democrats wanting to regain the state Senate and make the most of Congressional redistricting, there is no need to antagonize upstate voters unnecessarily.

  41. …. he had photos of a “man who spent the night at Lindsey Graham’s house”, but I haven’t heard anything further…

    Dreier’s going to be hard to out, though, since he’s supposedly schtupping his chief of staff, who isn’t exactly likely to turn a cache of emails over to Gawker. Well, I suppose we can always hope for a lover’s quarrel gone seriously awry. Until then, he’ll keep on marchin’ in that “moderate” pride parade.

  42. into Google, the first thing that comes up is “Patrick McHenry gay.” Second is “Patrick McHenry wedding,” and above “Patrick McHenry wiki” is “Patrick McHenry marriage.”

    Apparently knowledge about Patrick McHenry’s sex life is a highly valuable commodity on search engines. Says a lot about America…

  43. I think it was pre-taped as they were talking about state and local issues, but she could be a formidable candidate if interested.

  44. (and rather easily) over any democrat mentioned… As far as i know – she is of “pragmatic conservative” type – that’s fits district well and must be more then enough for victory…

  45. is that if he is in fact with his COS, there is a potential major conflict of interest, since Dreier decides how much money his partner is making. I know you have to disclose if someone from your family is on your payroll if you’re in Congress, does a similar provision apply even if the law doesn’t consider Dreier and his partner “family?” Surely there has to be something that applies if you’re dating someone…

  46. During the 2002 campaign, the state Democratic Chairman said Graham was “too light in the loafers” to succeed Strom Thurmond in the Senate.

  47. Don’t you mean it the other way around? It’s a Republican-held district that is now vacant, so by scheduling a special election they give Republicans an extra seat. It might not be terribly meaningful given the current margin in the House, but we did also see a couple of situations this week where a relatively small number of Republican votes did matter. The only people who would get particularly exercised over not holding a special would be the politically-aware Republicans in that district, who aren’t going to vote for Democrats anyhow.

    Yes, it would be rather petty and so on, but so what? You know if it was a Republican governor and a Democratic seat that opened up, they wouldn’t hesitate to take total partisan advantage of the situation. The Netroots complains all the time about Democratic officeholders refusing to play hardball; this would be an excellent time to make a partisan move.

  48. For a while in my head I kept nicknaming the guy “Saruman”, not because of anything nefarious, but just because he was so anonymous as it was and that I needed a way to identify him. Guess that won’t be necessary anymore.

  49.    I would gladly settle for having his sorry hypocritical ass out of Congress, even if not fully exposed. I know that sounds wrong, but whatever, I just want him no longer employed by the U.S. government!

  50. IF republicans nominate absolute crazy. Otherwise – even usual “solid conservative” (Reynolds-style) will be sufficient for them to win

  51. It seems to me last days, that though proposed merger is not yet finalized, the flavour of discussion here begin to follow worst DK patterns. And that the quality suffers accordingly.

    I caught myself on idea that i begin to write on RRH substantially more, then on SSP, and, frankly, enjoy it more…

  52. No idea what Hayworth has done.

    Buerkle held a town hall meeting with consitutents and seemed to be under the impression that Members of Congress don’t get health insurance until she was corrected by staffers.  Makes me wonder if she was in the room when Maryland’s new embarassment Andy Harris whined “Where’s my government health care?! Why does it not kick in immediately?!” at an freshman orientation session on the subject. Interesting that people so eager to deny health coverage to everyone else can’t sort out their own coverage.  

  53. As an incumbent, he got 55% in ’04 and 52% in ’06.

    So given a consensus D candidate, it’s reasonable to expect a closer race against such an opponent.

  54. It’s not really the most-Republican section of Erie County. The small towns of Clarence and Newstead are quite Republican, but Obama carried the large town of Amherst by 11 points and lost by only 3 in Lancaster, the second-largest Erie town in the district.

    It would be hard for the GOP to blow this, but not impossible.

  55. (2004 was “normal” year). 52 was in very good Democratic 2006, which will not be repeated soon…

  56. can expect fewer votes than incumbents.

    So if 55% is normal for a “Reynolds-style” R incumbent in R-26, something less would be “normal” for a “Reynolds-style” first time candidate.

    And at that point, a good D candidate is within a gaffe of making it close.

    One thing I don’t know is long-term vote trends in NY-26.

  57. but have vague memoies that it’s almost static. 2-3% here or there. Obama did better then Kerry in 2004, but by no more then 2-3%

  58. It does suggest she’s a low watt bulb. I know that if I get elected to Congress on health care issues, I want to be able to answer what would seem like farily obvious questions about my health care. At minimum, I’m not going to try to score rhetorical points on some issue if I’m flying totally blind.

  59. Also, Dan Burton of “Plexiglas shield around the House chamber” fame, as well as “Too busy golfing to vote” fame.  

  60. Alternatively, depriving 262 Republicans a 263rd. If New Yorkers wanted to mandate an election, they’ve had a few hundred years to put that into the law. At the very least he should declare that he’ll hold off until redistricting is complete – and then use the threat of refusing outright to hold one as leverage in the redistricting process.

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