Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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February 10, 2011

Corwin emerges as top GOP contender for 26th

— State Assembly member Jane Corwin, R-Clarence, is giving serious thought to running for the vacant 26th District U.S. House seat, she confirmed Thursday.

Corwin, whose 142nd Assembly district includes Lockport and Royalton, said in an e-mailed statement that she’ll decide “within a couple days” whether to try running as the Republican in a special election to fill the House seat vacated Wednesday by Christopher Lee.

“People in this part of the state deserve a representative who knows not only what it takes to create jobs but has actually done it. ... We need a representative who will fight to cut taxes, stop reckless Washington spending and create job opportunities for folks in Western New York,” Corwin said.

“Should I decide to run for Congress, I can assure all concerned that my campaign would have the resources to win and keep this seat in Republican hands,” she hastened to add.

Within hours of Lee’s resignation Wednesday afternoon — on the heels of published proof the married congressman was trying to solicit female companionship through Craigslist — Corwin emerged as a most frequently mentioned possible GOP candidate for Lee’s replacement.

A former business executive now serving her second term in the Assembly, Corwin is well liked by the Erie County GOP establishment and, important to the party, is said to have the resources to finance her own campaign and also attract donations quickly. Corwin presently is treasurer of the New York State Republican Committee.

On condition of anonymity, one Niagara County GOP official said Thursday that Corwin is No. 1 on the party’s list of possible candidates to put up in a special election.

Both the GOP and Democratic lists grew, and changed, quickly the day after Lee’s resignation. In various news and opinion blogs, other frequently mentioned GOP luminaries include: state Sen. George Maziarz, who said Wednesday night that he was interested in the seat; state Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer; Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks; and former state Assembly member Jack Quinn III. Listed Democrats include Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul and Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz.

State Assemblyman Jim Hayes, R-Amherst, went on the GOP list Wednesday and took himself off it Thursday. Carl Paladino was on the list, too, until he reportedly threw his support behind Corwin instead.

The vacant House seat is to filled by special election, not gubernatorial appointment. Party chairman hand pick candidates to represent their parties. By law, Gov. Andrew Cuomo must officially declare the seat vacant and set an election date, within 30 to 40 days of the vacancy being called.

The governor’s office did not respond Thursday to a US&J inquiry regarding when Cuomo will make the call. In state and federal law, there does not appear to be a deadline for him to do so.

Possibly influencing the parties’ and potential candidates’ thinking about the election is a belief the 26th District is a strong candidate for dissolution as reapportionment takes place this year.

Because New York’s population didn’t grow as much the past 10 years as other states’, it’s losing two House seats. Six congressional districts in the Western New York region are the only districts in all of New York that lost population since 2000, according to the Cook Report. And when it comes time for the state Legislature to pick winners and losers in the remapping game, conventional wisdom says House newcomers are most disposable.

“It’s certainly a lot easier for the decision makers, in this case state senators and assembly members, to do it in such a way that they don’t have to take somebody’s political life,” observed Peter Galie, a Canisius College professor of political science.

Also not in the 26th’s favor: Population of the neighboring 27th and 28th districts, led by incumbent Democratic Reps. Brian Higgins and Louise Slaughter, is significantly less than it’ll have to be on the new apportionment map.

According to the Center for Urban Research at City University of New York, average population of 27 new congressional districts will be 719,000. Present population of the 27th District is about 635,000, 13 percent under target; population of the 28th District is about 608,000, 18 percent under target and the most under target of all districts statewide. The 26th has a population count of about 652,000, 10 percent under target. Underpopulated districts are most likely to be pulled apart and recombined to achieve the right head count, CUR said.

Corwin isn’t looking at the future of the 26th District, she’s looking at its present, she said in a follow-up telephone interview Thursday.

“The lines haven’t been drawn yet, and we have 700,000 people in this district who need a representative, someone who wants to help control taxes and Washington spending, help create job opportunities. These were the results of the Nov. 2 election. ... The important thing here is representation for the people. There are a lot of very important issues coming up in Washington. There’s a sense of urgency” to have someone step up and do the job, she said.

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