On October 7, District 102 Assemblyman Peter Lopez left office to take over as the Environmental Protection Agency’s District 2 administrator. While the Schoharie County Republican’s domain now spans from the Adirondacks to the Virgin Islands, the estimated 130,000 residents in Lopez’s district, including Saugertiesians, may go unrepresented in the State Assembly until January of 2019.
“It’s up to the governor to call a special election,” said John Conklin, director of public information at the state Board of Elections. “We could potentially leave it vacant until this fall. If it had happened before September 20, then it would have been on the ballot this year.”
Since his appointment to the position, Lopez has been thrust into the agency’s management of the aftermath of the recent environmental disasters in the Caribbean.
“Within the first three days, I was testifying before Congress about relief for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” said Lopez of his experience with the EPA thus far. “This week, I was on the ground in Puerto Rico; yesterday I was before the [House of Representatives] Energy and Commerce Committee regarding Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has earned a reputation for leaving vacated seats in the legislature unfilled for months at a time. Within his first six years in office, two-dozen Assembly and Senate seats were vacated; only half were filled before general elections in the fall. The governor’s office did not return a call seeking comment.
“There’s not just Pete Lopez’s seat that’s vacant now — there are others. The governor will need to fill them,” said state Sen. George Amedore. The Rotterdam Republican is now Saugerties’ only representative in the state legislature, but both Amedore and Lopez said there are people working in Lopez’s old office to handle constituent issues.
The Assembly will not be in session until January 4; in the meantime, Lopez has left his office open to handle community outreach.
“Once I learned of this new position, my main goal was to provide as much coverage for my community as I could,” said Lopez. “The office is going to remain open; to my understanding, the office may be open until the end of this year. My goal in leaving was to provide continuity.”