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Slew of uncontested state races is possible

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A screwy election calendar this year, complicated by changes in primary dates and redistricting, has limited the choices of north country voters come November.

Democrats and Republicans alike can’t find anyone willing to run against some sitting state legislators.

“I’ve spoken to a number of people who may have had an interest, but they didn’t feel it was the right time in their lives,” said Donald G.M. Coon III, the Jefferson County GOP chairman. “Someone who’s an individual of the quality you want in a candidate is usually involved in a career that they’re devoted to.”

Another party recruiter who asked not to be named described one abrupt rejection like this: “I felt like I was asking the head cheerleader to the prom.”

Redistricting has made finding candidates more difficult, some party leaders say. The process, which takes place every 10 years, shifts New York’s legislative lines to account for shifts in population. The process wasn’t finished until March this year, and a court battle was raging until just this month, cutting well into the time for campaigning. Uncertainty over whether one’s home will be in a district represented by a friend or a foe has kept some on the sidelines.

In addition, uncertainty abounded about the date of the primary, and therefore the date by which candidates would have to circulate petitions to get on the ballot. Assembly Democrats tried to move the primary to June 26, but weren’t successful. They did agree with Senate Republicans to move the primary two days back, to Sept. 13, out of sensitivity for the Sept. 11 terror attacks anniversary. But that happened only this week.

“When we were out fielding candidates, nobody knew where the Assembly lines were drawn at the time,” said Mitchell G. Ford, chairman of the Oneida County Democratic Committee. “We were speculating, but it was all speculation. At one point, they were drawn and redrawn. It made it more difficult to field candidates for these positions.”

Redistricting also has increased the number of legislators who will represent parts of the north county come January. St. Lawrence County will be split among seven legislative districts, with four Assembly seats and three Senate seats, and Jefferson County will be represented by three members of the Assembly. Critics charge that more representatives actually diminish the voice of a county, because legislators who represent smaller chunks of the area don’t have to worry as much about the residents’ power at the ballot box.

FREE RIDE FOR SOME

Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, could get a free ride in November. Maria Pavelock of Oneida County backed out after expressing some interest in the race. Mr. Blankenbush’s 2010 Democrat challenger, Brian S. McGrath, won’t run again. It’s tough to take on incumbents, but the window of opportunity to oust a sitting legislator is slightly more ajar in that legislator’s freshman term. But Mr. Blankenbush’s new district still has a majority of Republican-registered voters.

Republicans have been searching fruitlessly for a challenger to Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, who is vying for her third term in November. Massena Mayor James F. Hidy and Jefferson County Legislator Philip N. Reed, R-Fishers Landing, both have turned down overtures from Republicans.

Assemblyman Marc W. Butler, R-Newport, may have a Democratic challenger from Herkimer County, though his or her name wasn’t immediately available, Mr. Ford said. The district includes the St. Lawrence County towns of Norfolk, Stockholm, Madrid, Parishville, Pierrepont, Clare, Colton, Clifton and Fine, plus Hamilton and Fulton and parts of Oneida and Herkimer counties.

Assemblywoman Janet L. Duprey, R-Peru, could face a Republican primary challenge from Karen M. Bisso or David Kimmel, who both are Clinton County tea party activists. Mrs. Bisso or Mr. Kimmel is likely to receive the Conservative Party line; and one or two Democrats in Clinton County also are eyeing the seat. Tim Carpenter, a Plattsburgh city councilman, is considering an Assembly run. The district includes Piercefield, Hopkinton, Lawrence and Brasher, as well as Clinton and Franklin counties.

Democratic Party leaders in the district represented by state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, said they hadn’t heard of any challenger.

Only state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, has a challenger. Amy M. Tresidder, an Oswego County legislator, is seeking the Democratic line to face Mrs. Ritchie.

State Sen. Elizabeth O’C. Little, R-Queensbury, has no known Democratic challenger, say party leaders in her district. Her district will stretch into Clare, Colton, Parishville, Hopkinton, Lawrence and Piercefield.

Assemblyman William A. Barclay, R-Pulaski, represents a district that will stretch into one Jefferson County town, Ellisburg. There’s no known challenger for him.

While some party leaders are quietly admitting pre-emptive defeat in finding new candidates, others don’t want to discuss their troubles at all.

Mark J. Bellardini, the St. Lawrence County Democratic Party chairman, was asked Tuesday whether the party would field candidates in the five legislative races touching St. Lawrence County that might not have a Democratic challenger. Mr. Bellardini said he had no comment — and told a reporter that his lack of comment was off the record.

“This conversation never happened,” Mr. Bellardini said.

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