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About that Senate special election: No movement yet

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Dec. 13, 2017, in Albany that he was unsure when he would call a special election for an open state Senate seat in Westchester County
Chairs are empty on the Democratic side of the Senate Chamber after Democratic senators walked out of session at the Capitol on Wednesday, May 6, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. Democratic lawmakers walked out of the Senate in protest Wednesday after Republicans refused to allow the vote to remove Dean Skelos as Senate majority leader. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

ALBANY -- Democratic Party leaders in Westchester will meet Tuesday night to nominate its candidate for an open seat in the state Senate.

There's just one outstanding issue: There's no date yet on when the election would be held.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to say when he would set the special election for the Westchester seat in the Senate that was left vacant Jan. 1 when George Latimer took office as county executive.

Some party activists want the election called prior to negotiations over the state budget for the fiscal year that starts April 1. The Latimer seat is one of two open seats in the Senate; the other is in the Bronx.

If both elections were held and Democrats won, there is talk that the party could reconcile its differences and retake the majority from Republicans, who hold a one-seat majority.

But so far, Cuomo hasn't hinted he will call the elections before the budget deadline March 31.

"There are some groups who want it sooner. There are some groups who want it later. There's some groups who don't want it period," Cuomo told reporters Dec. 13.

Asked why he would wait until after the budget, Cuomo responded, "Because you need to get a budget done also, right? And some would argue that politicizing the budget isn't the best idea. But it's a decision we have to make next year in January, and we will."

By law, Cuomo has to issue a proclamation if he chooses to call a special election.

The election date would have to be between 70 and 80 days after he issues the proclamation.

Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, suggested last week that Cuomo may call the elections after the budget is approved.

"I think the governor has stated he is concerned about what happens in terms of the budget," Stewart-Cousins, who heads the Senate Democratic Conference, said on WNYC radio.

"Of course, I want to be there at the table because I think it's important what happens at the budget. But he is the one who controls when special elections happen."

In November, the state Democratic Committee floated a plan where Senate Democrats and the eight-member Independent Democratic Committee would join together if Democrats can win the two open Senate seats .

If Democrats could also get Sen. Simcha Felder, D-Brooklyn, to rejoin the Democratic conference, they would have a one-seat majority this year.

All the discussions, though, comes with plenty of caveats, and Felder told the New York Post last month he has no plans to leave the Republican conference before the budget is done.

“Some people think they can bully me, intimidate me to move around. That's not going to happen,” Felder told the paper.

As for the Westchester Senate race itself, district leaders will pick from among state Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer; Bedford Town Supervisor Chris Burdick; West Harrison resident Mark Jaffe; and White Plains resident Kat Brezler.

Last week, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano dropped out of contention.

Republicans also have to pick a candidate, but they hasn't set a date for a nominating convention.

Attorney Sarmad Khojasteh and one-time Westchester district attorney candidate Dan Schorr are seeking the GOP nomination.

The candidates who win the conventions will square off in the special election because there are no primaries in this case.

The seat represents the Senate's 37th District, which covers much of Westchester's east side, including parts of Yonkers, White Plains and New Rochelle as well as Bedford, North Castle, Harrison, Rye and Mamaroneck.

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