Nojay not the first to win election posthumously

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - The death of state Assemblyman William Nojay by suicide Friday did not prevent him from winning a Republican Party primary Tuesday against Honeoye Falls Mayor Richard Milne.
 
If such a thing has ever happened in the Rochester area, it has been a long time at the least. Across the country, though, a dead person winning an election is unusual but by no means unprecedented.
 
Consider the scale: A 2012 report from the U.S. Census Bureau reported there are nearly 90,000 local governments in the nation, nearly all composed of elected members.
 
With that many candidates, it is inevitable that some will die after their names are printed on the ballot, and that some will be elected. Just in the last 20 years, it has happened a number of times, including in a vote for a U.S. senator.
 
There was even a case already in 2016. Kansas City Councilwoman Dutch Newman was re-elected to her seat Aug. 3, just a week after dying at age 95.
 
In some instances, the person died long enough before the vote that there was time to name a designated successor. That was the case in 2000, when then-Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan defeated incumbent U.S. Sen. John Ashcroft despite having died in a plane crash several weeks earlier. Carnahan's wife, Jean Carnahan, took his place and served in the Senate for two years before losing narrowly in a special election.
 
♦ In 1972, U.S. House Majority Leader Hale Boggs was campaigning in rural Alaska for fellow Democratic Rep. Nick Begich. The plane carrying both of them disappeared Oct. 16, presumed to have crashed.
 
The two men were never found, and were not declared dead until months later. In the interim, both won re-election and were subsequently replaced in special elections. The winner of the Alaskan special election, Don Young, is still in office now, 21 terms later.
 
♦ Patsy Mink was another U.S. congressperson to win re-election posthumously. She died of pneumonia Sept. 28, 2002, a week after winning the Democratic primary, but stayed on the ballot and won easily.
 
♦ After Democratic California state Sen. Jenny Oropeza died Oct. 20, 2010, the state Democratic Party sent out a mailer urging people to vote for her anyway.
 
The mailer did not, however, mention she had died. It said only that her "illness has been a tragedy," and that "her strength through her struggle inspired us all."
 
That wording, a party spokesman told the Los Angeles Times, "was an effort to be both delicate and sensitive to the circumstances." Oropeza won by 20 points and was replaced via special election.
 
♦ Many local politicians across the country have overcome their death to win election. Charles Beasley pulled it off in Bibb County, Alabama, a month after his death in 2012.
 
"It's a touchy situation," his vanquished opponent told a reporter. "When you are running against a dead man, you are limited as to what you can say."
 
JMURPHY7@Gannett.com

 


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