Successors to Chris Lee are quick to emerge

February 10, 2011

By Robert J. McCarthy, Buffalo News

Politics around these parts Wednesday afternoon seemed eerily similar to that quiet morning of March 10, 2008 — just before word broke of a prostitution scandal that brought down Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer.

Early Wednesday, all was right in the world of Rep. Chris Lee — the rising star in the Republican Congress whom Democrats and Republicans alike credited with performing superbly in his role as businessman turned politician.

But like Spitzer before him, Lee’s human frailties were displayed for all the nation to see on the 6 p.m. newscasts.

But an undeniable fact about politics in New York stands firm — politics goes on. And within hours of Lee’s stunning resignation Wednesday evening, a new stamp was already being imprinted on the face of area politics — one without Chris Lee.

Republican names like Assemblywoman Jane L. Corwin of Clarence and Sen. George D. Maziarz of Newfane are this morning dominating the game of political dominoes. Other names, including Assemblyman James P. Hayes, Sen. Michael H. Ranzenhofer and Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, are entering the speculation, but anyone even contemplating a succession to Lee must also recognize the potential for a political dead end in the form of reapportionment in 2012.

Because of the probability that population drain will cost Western New York one of its seats in Congress, it’s a good bet the new member of Congress will be reapportioned out of a job next year — or at least plunked into a match against another powerful incumbent like Democrats Louise M. Slaughter of Fairport or Brian Higgins of Buffalo.

But that doesn’t seem to be stopping anyone.

“We have some phenomenal candidates,” said Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy. “The question is selecting the right candidate and getting consensus.”

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