Even in death, State Assemblyman Bill Nojay, a Republican from the Rochester area who fatally shot himself in a city cemetery last week, seems likely to win the primary election for his seat on Tuesday. Rarely has a candidate died so close to Election Day. And even as political insiders and Mr. Nojay’s friends dissect his final days, trying to unravel the circumstances surrounding his suicide, his continued presence on the ballot has turned what was supposed to be a simple race into an Albany aberration born of an odd, little-noticed portion of the electoral rule book. Voters are being urged to cast their ballots for a dead man. Three men in a room are preparing to pick his political heir. The funeral has yet to be held, but the struggle to replace him is already on.
It bears repeating: This does not normally happen. “It certainly doesn’t,” said Lowell Conrad, the chairman of the Livingston County Republican Party, who had to consult his election commissioner to get up to speed on the procedure. “Hopefully it won’t again.”
If Mr. Nojay wins, election law states, Republican party leaders in the three counties that fall partly or fully within the 133rd Assembly District — Livingston, Monroe and Steuben — will choose someone to run as the general-election Republican candidate in his place. They have until 10 days after his death to do so, or about a week after the primary on Tuesday. If he loses to his challenger, Rick Milne, the mayor of the village of Honeoye Falls, Mr. Milne will simply claim the nomination. That is all “assuming that it isn’t a tie, or some other strange thing,” as Mr. Conrad pointed out.