State lawmakers leaving vacancies in Albany, and who might replace them
Election Day has come and gone, but with many elected officials moving on to other offices, there are plenty of vacancies that will need to be filled. Here’s a look at the state lawmakers who were elected to another office and few potential contenders for several of the seats.
Ruben Diaz Sr. – Democratic state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., known for his signature cowboy hat and as the father of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., won the election for New York City Council’s District 18, which was left vacant by term-limited Annabel Palma. Diaz Sr., who has served in the state Senate District 32 in the Bronx since 2002, easily beat several third-party candidates. The newly elected city councilman’s successor in the state Senate is likely to be a Democrat, with 139,179 active Democrats registered in the Senate district, compared to only 6,662 active Republicans.
The race to replace Diaz may lead to another vacancy in Albany. City & State’s Gerson Borrero reported in May that Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda, a Democrat, was eyeing Diaz’s Senate seat, and the Daily News confirmed that he is likely to run for the vacant position if Cuomo calls a special election. Councilwoman Annabel Palma, another possible contender, may not make a bid for the seat, as she was recently named a deputy commissioner in the de Blasio administration.
George Latimer – Democratic state Sen. George Latimer knocked out two-term Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino with 57 percent of the vote, and his victory prompted Astorino to call off any rematch against Gov. Andrew Cuomo next year. Latimer’s soon-to-be vacant Hudson Valley state Senate seat in District 37 has been a battleground race in the past – including in 2010, when Republican Bob Cohen fell just short against Suzi Oppenheimer, and in 2012, when Cohen lost to Latimer. Democrats have an enrollment advantage with 81,048 active voters, compared to 53,577 Republicans.
The Daily News reported that Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, a Democrat, is a serious contender for Latimer’s vacant seat, and would likely be Cuomo’s choice for the position. Democratic Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer has also expressed interest, and Kat Brezler, a Bernie Sanders organizer from White Plains, has announced her candidacy.
Mark Gjonaj – Democratic Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj was elected to represent the New York City Council’s District 13 in the Bronx (left vacant by term-limited James Vacca). Now the first Albanian-American to be elected to the council, Gjonaj will leave the 80th Assembly District open. The successful contender to Gjonaj’s seat is likely to be a Democrat, with 44,007 active Democratic voters in the district, and only 5,433 Republicans.
Al Graf – Republican Assemblyman Alfred Graf was successful in his campaign for a Fifth District Court judgeship in Islip. The Suffolk County lawmaker was first elected to the Assembly in 2010 and his district includes parts of his native Holbrook and Stony Brook. His Assembly district is narrowly divided between 24,179 active Democrats and 29,231 Republicans.
Brian Kavanagh – Democratic Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh cruised to victory in a special election to replace state Sen. Daniel Squadron, who resigned in the middle of his term. Kavanagh’s Assembly district on Manhattan’s east side will likely to be filled by a Democrat, with 53,720 active Democrats and fewer than 8,000 Republicans.
Mike Corbett, an aide to New York City Councilman Costa Constantinides and president emeritus of the New York State Young Democrats, just announced his candidacy. Housing activist Harvey Epstein is also a candidate in the race to fill Kavanagh’s empty Assembly seat.
Michael Kearns – Assemblyman Michael Kearns, a Democrat running on the GOP line, narrowly defeated Democratic candidate and former radio host Steve Cichon with 51.9 percent of the votes to become the Erie County clerk. The post had been vacant since January, when former Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs was elected to the state Senate. In the Assembly, Kearns represented the 142nd District, which comprises parts of South Buffalo, Lackawanna, Seneca and Orchard Park. The next Assembly representative from the district is likely to be a Democrat, with 42,768 active registered Democrats compared to 20,416 Republicans.
Chad Lupinacci – Republican Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci defeated Democrat candidate Tracey Edwards and independent Michael Raspantini to become the supervisor of Huntington, a seat held by Frank Petrone for 24 years. Lupinacci will leave his seat of five years in the 10th District of the Assembly, which includes large portions of Suffolk County. With 31,281 active Democrats and 25,675 active Republicans registered in the district, his successor could easily come from either party.
Steve McLaughlin – Republican Assemblyman Steven McLaughlin declared victory after garnering 51 percent of the vote in the race for Rensselaer County executive, and Democratic nominee Andrea Smyth eventually conceded defeat. McLaughlin will leave a vacancy in the 107th Assembly District, which includes Rensselaer, Albany and Columbia counties. There are 24,905 active Democratic voters and 24,772 Republicans in the district, which could translate into a narrow win for either party.
Francisco Moya – Assemblyman Francisco Moya, a Queens Democrat, ran unopposed in the general election, winning a New York City Council seat held by Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who declined to run for reelection. The person to fill his shoes in the Assembly is likely to be a Democrat, with 29,651 active Democrats and only 3,858 Republicans in the 39th District.
Pete Lopez – Former Republican Assemblyman Pete Lopez didn’t wasn’t elected to another office this month – but he did step aside to become the regional administrator for the United States Environmental Protection Agency's region 2 in October. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Scott Pruitt named Lopez to the post for Region 2, which includes New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in September. Lopez’s seat in the 102nd Assembly District has since been vacant, and Republicans have the edge in active voters with 28,609, compared with 22,655 registered active Democrats.
Thomas McKevitt – Republican Assemblyman Thomas McKevitt is leaving his seat in the 17th District for a more local legislative seat on the Nassau County Legislature after defeating Democrat Eileen Napolitano on Election Day. McKevitt will represent the 13th District of his native East Meadows on a seat left vacant by longtime GOP incumbent Norma Gonsalves. The district has a GOP advantage, with 39,060 active Republican voters and 29,783 Democrats.
Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect that Mike Corbett is officially running for Brian Kavanagh's soon-to-be vacant Assembly seat.