Corwin will be Republican candidate in special election to replace Chris Lee

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin will be the Republican candidate in the special election to replace former New York Republican Rep. Chris Lee, who abruptly resigned from Congress at the beginning of February after an extramarital online flirtation was exposed. Corwin was selected by vote of the chairs of the Republican parties in the seven counties that make up the 26th district.

Nick Langworthy, chair of the Erie County GOP announced the result of the vote via Twitter at 8 p.m. Monday. The seven county chairs conducted a final round of interviews with prospective candidates on Sunday.

“I am humbled to receive the support of Western New York’s Republican leadership and I thank them for conducting this process in an open, fair and comprehensive manner considering the time constraints,” said Corwin in a statement. She went on to tout her record as the “2nd most conservative member of the New York State Assembly,” and reiterate her commitment to smaller government, “fiscal responsibility,” and creating jobs.

Corwin had been considered the frontrunner since she first considered running. She has a very conservative voting record, and is considered very likeable and media-friendly, as well as a good fundraiser. Perhaps more importantly, she has the resources to self-fund a campaign, at least in part. She has committed to spending at least $1,000,000 of her own money on the race, a fact that likely weighed in her favor due to the shortened election cycle. By law, the vote will be held between 30 and 45 days after the governor calls for a special election, giving candidates little time to raise money.

A campaign for the seat could have a higher price tag should Democrats choose to make a play for the seat. Republicans have a voter advantage in the district, and so far, no formidable candidate has emerged on the Democratic side. But Democrats could try to fight for it in order to gain momentum going into the 2012 election cycle.

The National Republican Congressional Committee threw its weight behind Corwin shortly after the endorsement was announced. “She understands that the best ideas come from outside Washington and so do the best candidates,” said NRCC spokesperson Andrea Bozek, in what was likely a jab at Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul, currently seen as the most likely choice for the Democratic candidate. Hochul spent time in Washington, D.C. as a congressional legislative assistant.

Corwin’s personal funds have provoked discontent among some Tea Party groups in New York. On Sunday, TEA New York sent a letter to the seven county chairs asking them to delay choosing a candidate, and suggesting that they were effectively going to sell the seat to Corwin.

Corwin beat out seven other candidates for the nomination, including businessman Jack Davis, who had said he would try for the Democratic nomination if he did not receive the Republican endorsement. David Bellavia, an Iraq war veteran, had also suggested that he might run on another ticket if he was not selected.