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Clock ticking to fill Lopez vacancy in Assembly

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    C-GM file photo Former Assemblyman Pete Lopez is pictured at the unveiling of the modernized Lafarge plant in September. Lopez's seat remains vacant after he stepped down to take a post with the EPA.
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    The New York State Capitol in Albany, N.Y.

January 11, 2018 12:15 am

COEYMANS — Coeymans and Ravena will be underrepresented in Albany this year with the Assembly seat formerly held by Republican Pete Lopez remaining vacant.

That is one of numerous vacancies that remain on the state level.

The 2018 state legislative calendar began with 11 vacancies in the Senate and Assembly, including Assembly District 102, which until a few months ago was held by Lopez.

Most of the vacancies are for downstate districts.

Lopez left his seat after accepting an appointment as director of the EPA’s Region 2 in September — too late for anyone to petition to be elected to the seat in November.

“The seats can only be filled by a special election called by the governor, according to Public Officers Law Section 42,” said John Conklin, director of public information for the state Board of Elections. “Calling a special election is completely within the governor’s discretion. If he does not call a special election, the vacancies will be filled at the next scheduled election in November of 2018.”

Although Republicans make up the minority conference in the Assembly, the vacancies will mean voters in those districts will not have representation for the most important legislative action of the year — the state budget, which is due April 1.

Good government groups and elected officials are urging the governor to call the special elections as soon as possible so the vacancies are filled in time for the budget vote.

“To call a special election, the governor must issue a proclamation,” Conklin said. “Once the proclamation is issued, the election must take place no less than 70 days, and no more than 80 days, from the date of the proclamation.”

In light of discussions being held in Albany after Gov. Andrew Cuomo unofficially announced he will call for special elections after the budget is passed, local Republican committees are gearing up to find replacements for both vacant districts.

“We have four interested candidates for Lopez’s seat, who will have to present before the respective county committees, and they will be narrowed down to one candidate,” said Columbia County Republican Committee Chairman Greg Fingar.

Because the district spans multiple counties, the respective committees will have a say in who is nominated. The committees will have a candidate for the 102nd district by the end of January or February, Fingar said, in anticipation of a special election in March.