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. 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:




  13. 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?

  14. 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.

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