If there’s one sure bet in politics this year, it’s that Saratoga County District Attorney Jim Murphy is going to become the next County Court judge.
The more interesting question is who will replace him as DA — even though the election may not be until November 2015.
One former and three current assistant DAs are currently on the road, seeking the support of town and city Republican committees in their quests to become Saratoga County’s top crime dog.
At this point, former first assistant David Harper has picked up the most backing. His hometown committee, Saratoga Springs, has endorsed him, as have the committees in Northumberland, the town of Saratoga, and this week Wilton.
The current first assistant, Karen Heggen, has earned the backing of the GOP in her home community, Malta.
Also in the running are assistant DAs Debra Kaelin and James Davis.
Local Democrats have said they’ll look for candidates. The Republican Party, however, has a large countywide voter enrollment advantage, and tends to be where the action is.
Over the next month, all the Republican committees in the county are expected to meet and consider endorsements, and it’s still early in the process.
The GOP committees from six small northern towns were to meet Friday night in Corinth. The committees in Moreau and Milton, two of the bigger towns whose votes carry more weight, will meet Tuesday. After that, the field could narrow.
“I think after Tuesday things might start to shake out,” said county Republican Chairman John Herrick.
The unknown is whether Murphy will resign at some point before the end of the year, in time to allow for a special election in November.
“The funny thing is they are running for a [vacancy] that doesn’t even exist,” Herrick told me Friday.
It’s looking like Murphy will be the only candidate to replace Judge Jerry Scarano in County Court. Scarano will retire at the end of the year. The rules allow Murphy to remain as district attorney while running for judge, but he doesn’t have to; a resignation by mid-September would trigger a special election.
Originally, the Republican party was just going to wait and see — but Herrick said that changed in late March when County Treasurer Sam Pitcheralle unexpectedly announced plans to retire. That meant Republican committees around the county would need to meet this spring anyway, to consider endorsements for treasurer candidates.
GOP leaders decided the district attorney candidate might as well be picked at the same time, because the committees were going to be meeting anyway.
“My thought process is that the same four are going to want to run, whether the election is this year or next year,” Herrick said.
In a worst-case scenario for the GOP, Murphy could remain in office until Dec. 31, creating a vacancy to be filled by appointment by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo would likely pick a Democrat, and the thought of an opposite-party prosecutor loose in the county — well, it gets the ink flowing in my veins. None of the loyal Republicans involved — including Murphy — wants that.
Meanwhile, former Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins and financial manager Andrew Jarosh are doggedly campaigning away for county treasurer, and getting hardly any attention at all.
Stephen Williams is a Gazette reporter. The opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. He can be reached at 885-6705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.