DEMOCRATS TAP NEW FACE IN 20TH DISTRICT

Scott Murphy of Warren County is picked to run

CAROL DEMARE STAFF WRITER
Section: Main,  Page: A1

Date: Monday, February 2, 2009

ALBANY -- Political newcomer Scott Murphy of Warren County was selected by Democratic leaders Sunday to run for the congressional seat vacated by Kirsten Gillibrand.


Murphy, 49, the director of a Glens Falls-based venture capital firm, emerged as the party's choice several hours after a closed-door backroom meeting of chairmen from 10 counties, held at the Gateway Diner on Central Avenue.


The chairmen interviewed four candidates who had thrown in their hats to run in a race to represent the 20th Congressional District, which includes all or parts of Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren, Washington, Columbia, Dutchess, Delaware, Essex, Greene and Otsego counties.


Nearly three dozen candidates initially expressed interest for the seat when Gillbrand's name first surfaced as a possible successor in the senate to Hillary Rodham Clinton.


"He's a vibrant, young, successful man with very strong roots in the communities of Washington and Warren counties," said Tom Wade, Rensselaer County Democratic chairman. "He made a very favorable impression to the 10-county Democratic chairs and after deliberation received our unanimous support."


The winner of a special election would fill Sen. Gillibrand's recently vacated seat in U.S. House of Representatives.


Republican leaders have picked state Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco as their choice in an attempt to win back the seat that was long controlled by Republicans.


Saratoga County Democratic chairman Larry Bulman said the party is excited to have Murphy as its candidate despite his lack of name recognition.


"We all know that he doesn't have the recognition that Tedisco has. But he doesn't have the negetives either. Kirsten Gillibrand was a big unknown and look how that turned out," Bulman said.


Murphy is a Harvard graduate. In addition to working as an executive with Advantage Capital, a private equity investing firm that finances small businesses, he also has served on the staffs of two Missouri governors, and founded three different Internet-related businesses.


Democratic leaders arrived at the diner at 9:30 a.m. and ordered breakfast, according to Melissa Verrigni, the restaurant's general manager. "There's about 30 of them back there," she said, referring to the private room.


They chose Gateway because of its central location, she said. Albany County is not in the district, which stretches from Dutchess County in the south to Essex County in the north and west to Otsego County and southwest to Delaware County.


Albany is in the 21st Congressional District, which had an election in November, won by Democrat Paul Tonko, to fill the seat held for 20 years by Michael McNulty, who decided to retire from Congress. That election initially drew a dozen Democratic candidates.


On Sunday, the leaders had planned to spend some time at the diner, telling the staff they would be there for lunch as well, Verrigni said.


The field of potential candidates that at one time had about 35 was narrowed by the weekend to six. However, Suzy Ballantyne, director of governmental affairs for the New York State AFL-CIO, announced Sunday in a release that she had withdrawn her name. She said she informed the screening committee on Saturday of her decision.


Ballantyne cited as one of the considerations the "time and energy that one has to put into running and serving in political office is extremely consuming," and that it would take her away from her family, which includes three teenage children.


Also withdrawing was former news reporter and television anchor Tracy Egan, who also cited family considerations and the need to be close to her thoroughbred horse farm in Saratoga County, Wade said.


Early Sunday evening Murphy issued a statement regarding his selection by the Democratic party.


"I am excited and honored to be selected to follow in the footsteps of the extraordinary Senator Gillibrand as the Democrat nominee, and I look forward to discussing my ideas and getting out to meet voters as soon as possible. I am furthermore impressed by the open and inclusive process on the part of the county committees, and would like to extend my gratitude."


In the running besides Murphy was Tim Gordon, an assemblyman from Delmar; Ron Kim, public safety commissioner in Saratoga Springs; and Carol Schrager, a Greene County lawyer. The special election will take place 30 to 40 days after Gov. David Paterson issues a proclamation for it.