Leaders may decide today who will face Tedisco in upcoming 20th Congressional race

Section: Capital Region,  Page: C1

Date: Sunday, February 1, 2009

County Democratic chairs from the 20th Congressional District have narrowed their list of candidates for the race to fill Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's recently vacated seat from 35 to six, party leaders said Saturday.

Interviews will take place today, in hour-long intervals, at an undisclosed location in the Capital Region, according to Essex County Chairwoman Sue Montgomery Corey. As early as this afternoon the chairs may select a candidate, who will face off against Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco, the GOP's pick.

The Democratic short list is as follows: Suzy Ballantyne, director of governmental affairs for the New York AFL-CIO; Tracy Egan, former local television news anchor; Assemblyman Tim Gordon; Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim; Scott Murphy, managing director of Advantage Capital Partners; and local attorney Carol Schrager.

Montgomery Corey said the 10 county chairs "hope" to come to an agreement on a candidate today.

"It's going to be a really fun day," she said Saturday. "We're really looking forward to it and seeing all the candidates."

The Democratic pick will be in for a challenging race, given how difficult it is for the party to hold on to the seat in the mostly-rural 20th Congressional District. There are 196,118 Republicans to 125,486 Democrats -- and 118,364 blanks -- enrolled in the district.

Democrat Gillibrand, who was appointed last week by Gov. David Paterson to the senate seat Hillary Rodham Clinton left when she became secretary of state, first took office after an election fought against incumbent Republican John Sweeney -- a man mired in controversy during and after the 2006 race.

But this special election, which will take place 30 to 40 days after Paterson makes a proclamation calling for it, could prove a much tougher fight for the Democrats.

Tedisco has a leg up on any of the candidates in terms of name recognition. He also has the support of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has hailed his candidacy and will likely contribute funding to his campaign.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said had this to say:

"While a special election will be difficult in this traditionally Republican leaning district, the N.Y. Democrats and the DCCC are working aggressively to keep this district in the Democratic column."

The race is also likely to prove intense, given the short window. Tedisco kicked off his campaign minutes after he was named the GOP's pick last week.

He was at it again Saturday in Saratoga Springs, where Women for Tedisco held a rally at the public library. In a short news conference, Tedisco, who lives in Schenectady but has said he intends to move into the district, celebrated his new role as a candidate in a state where several top leaders weren't elected into their positions.

"I'm heartened by the fact that we're going to get out and run a campaign," he said. "We're going to have an election."

Ryan Hutchins can be reached at 454-5697 or by e-mail at rhutchins@timesunion.com.


Democratic short list

One of these six is expected to be the Democratic candidate for the 20th Congressional District. Who are they, and what are their strengths?

Suzy Ballantyne is director of governmental affairs for the New York AFL-CIO. Coordinated labor operations for campaigns on local, state and federal levels. Could generate wide-reaching support from labor unions.

Tracy Egan is an advisor to MTech Labs where she locates investors. Worked at CBS6 and WTEN 10 as a news reporter and anchor for 20 years. Her celebrity could help her in such a short campaign.

Tim Gordon is an assemblyman from Delmar. Sole proprietor in an Albany-based public relations and advertising agency. Has experience in elected office and is well-known in his community.

Ron Kim is public safety commissioner in Saratoga Springs. Attorney in private practice and well-known in his community.

Scott Murphy is managing director of Advantage Capital Partners. Former deputy chief of staff to the governor of Missouri. Harvard College grad has cash and ties to national Democratic figures.

Carol Schrager is a well-known local attorney. Was editor of Women's Law Journal when she was a student as Harvard Law School. Knows her way around district politics.



C6 Biographical sketches of six Democrats considered for 20th Congressional District race.