April 16th at midnight is the filing deadline for congressional candidates to deliver their signatures to the local Board of Elections to get onto the June 26th primary ballot, but in an interesting wrinkle in election law, candidates can still substitute in someone else after this date.
“You have four days after the last day to submit your petitions to decline, so in this case, the day is the 16th and you have until the 20th to decline,” election law guru Jerry Goldfeder succinctly explained to The Politicker this afternoon. “And if you do so, your committee to fill vacancies votes to substitute someone else.”
This is an uncommon but not unheard-of procedure. For example, former Congressman Thomas Manton used it to handpick Joe Crowley as his successor.
(The committee is designated on a candidate’s campaign petitions and its members can be expected to be loyal to the candidate’s wishes.)
This year, there are two races in particular that could potential house this sort of electoral surprise.
First, rumors have constantly been raising the possibility of octogenarian Congressman Charlie Rangel — who is recovering from a serious back injury — passing his torch to Assemblyman Keith Wright, the head of the Manhattan’s Democratic Party organization. Indeed, Mr. Rangel’s committee to fill vacancies is stocked full of allies of Mr. Wright as well.
However, both Mr. Rangel and Mr. Wright have steadfastly denied any such deal being in place.
Less widely rumored is veteran Congressman Ed Towns, who unlike Mr. Rangel, has no visible reelection campaign and has been avoiding all campaign-related events and not returning press inquiries until recently.
Mr. Towns’ campaign got a little more noisy today with political consultant Hank Sheinkopf addressing the press and attacking one of Mr. Towns’ opponents, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries. However, despite the sudden interest in talking to the media (Mr. Towns’ previous campaign spokesman did not return emails or calls), Mr. Sheinkopf refused to definitively say if Mr. Towns would seek reelection.
When directly asked if Mr. Towns was even running for reelection, Mr. Sheinkopf would only point to a statement he gave to Capital New York‘s Reid Pillifant that suggested Mr. Jeffries is out of touch while musing, “We shall see what happens.”
However, unlike Mr. Rangel, Mr. Towns has no natural successor. At one point in his career, Mr. Towns’ son, then-Assemblyman Darryl Towns, seemed interested, but he has since taken a job in the Cuomo administration and his entry would be a big surprise.
Still, Mr. Sheinkkopf’s and Mr. Towns’ actions are odd and observers following the race are curious what Mr. Towns’ next move is going to be.