Attorney John Aretakis announced today — the day before he has to file designating petitions — that he is withdrawing as a candidate for the 21st Congressional District seat.
He is the latest Democrat to drop out of the heavily contested race to succeed U.S. Rep. Michael McNulty, D-Green Island, who is retiring at the end of his term this year after 20 years in the House of Representatives.
As of today, two candidates have filed designating petitions with the state Board of Elections: Darius Shahinfar, an Albany attorney and former aide to Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, who filed petitions on the Democrat line; and former assemblyman Paul Tonko, who filed petitions on the Working Families line.
Aretakis said he plans to devote full time to representing victims of sexual abuse by priests and others.
Democrat Lester Freeman dropped out of the race July 2 and threw his support behind Tonko.
Candidates have to collect 1,250 signatures from enrolled voters living in the district, which includes all or part of seven counties. Political observers said the real race for the seat will begin after candidates have filed their petitions.
State Board of Elections spokesman Robert Brehm said candidates have until 5 p.m. Thursday to file in person or have their petitions postmarked Thursday if they mail them in.
There will be a primary among the remaining Democrats on Sept. 9. The district consists of all of Albany, Schenectady, Montgomery and Schoharie counties and part of Schenectady, Fulton and Rensselaer counties. Democrats hold a plurality in voter registration, 41 percent to 28 percent for Republicans.
It is unclear if the two Republican candidates will face a primary. Republican James Buhrmaster of Glenville said he has collected enough signatures to file his petitions. The other Republican is Steven Vasquez of Ballston Lake.
The other Democrats seeking the seat are: Tracey Brooks, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton; Craig Burridge, executive director of the Pharmacists Society of New York; Phil Steck, chairman of the town of Colonie Democratic Committee and an attorney practicing civil rights and labor law; Joseph P. Sullivan, a former city of Albany Republican chairman; and Arthur Welser, a licensed broker with Real Property Enterprises in North Greenbush.
Candidates must also file financial disclosure statements with the Federal Elections Commission by Tuesday.
Shahinfar said raising money is the next important step candidates need to take for the race, as the primary is expected to cost at least $1 million.
“We will be hitting streets like we were doing for last six weeks,” Shahinfar said.
Shahinfar has waged a grass-roots campaign, he said, one more focused on winning “the endorsement of voters” than of party leaders. He has not received any endorsements from the major or minor political parties.
Buhrmaster, on the other hand, is the only candidate in the race to lock up all the endorsements of a major party; he also has the endorsement of the Conservative Party in each of the seven counties.
Tonko has endorsements from Democratic committees in Montgomery, Schenectady and Schoharie counties and the endorsement of the labor-backed Working Families Party. He is the former assemblyman from the 105th District and the former chairman of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
Steck has the endorsements of the Albany County Democratic Committee and the Independence Party.
The Democratic committees in Rensselaer and Saratoga counties are not making endorsements prior to the Sept. 9 primary. The Fulton County Democratic Committee will consider endorsements after candidates file their designating petitions in July, party officials said.
McNulty said he will not make an endorsement in the race. However, his father, former Green Island Mayor Jack McNulty, has endorsed Brooks, and his sister, Ellen McNulty-Ryan, mayor of Green Island, is chairwoman of Brooks’ campaign.
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Categories: Schenectady County