BUFFALO, N.Y. (WROC/WIVB) — Now that Rep. Chris Collins has resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives, it begs the questions what happens to his constituents?
Governor Andrew Cuomo could call for a special election, or he could wait until the regular elections are held next November.
During that time, the people of the 27th District will have no representation.
“In a way, that’s Chris Collins’ fault. He’s resigning the seat he was elected to. He was just elected last November and here it is ten months later and he’s resigning,” Former Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan said.
Lenihan says he thinks the governor will make a decision to hold a special election sooner rather than later.
“I think once we get to November, the governor will decide when there’s going to be a special election and i would imagine it’s going to be sometime in early spring. The bottom line is he could decide to leave the seat vacant until next November, but I think that’s highly unlikely.”
Filling vacancies in the House can be a tedious process. A special election can be put forth, but it can also be put on hold based on timing.
For reference, Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t put forth a special election when Rochester-area Congresswoman Louise Slaughter died, and instead, the vacancy existed until Rep. Joe Morelle won the general election for the seat.
According to the Constitution:
When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.
According to History of the House, vacancies can be caused by death, resignation, declination, withdrawal, or House action, but the Constitution requires that they be filled by election. The law concerning Members elected to fill vacancies varies according to when the vacancy occurs and applicable state law.
All states, territories, and districts require special elections to fill any vacant House seats during the first session of a Congress. During the second session of a Congress, however, procedures often vary depending on the amount of time between the vacancy and the next general election. Section 8 of Title 2, United States Code, provides that a state governor can cause a special election in extraordinary circumstances; namely, a crisis in which the number of House vacancies exceeds 100.
The process of holding a special election can take months, and even if one is held, and a winner is determined, the seat will be back up for grabs in the 2020 election. As of now, no decision has been made on what will happen with the seat.
Regardless, names floated as possible replacements include:
- Republican State Sen. Chris Jacobs
- Republican State Sen. Rob Ortt
- Democrat Nate McMurray, who lost to Collins in 2018
- Republican Beth Parlato
Another potential GOP candidate is recent Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia, who hasn’t ruled out a run.