A federal judge ordered Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday to set a date for a special election to replace disgraced former Rep. Michael Grimm, who resigned Jan. 5 after pleading guilty to federal tax evasion charges.
If Cuomo fails to set a date before a Feb. 20 hearing at the Brooklyn courthouse, or can give a better reason for a delay, U.S. District Court Judge Jack Weinstein said the court will pick a day.
Cuomo's office said a date would come "shortly."
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“As reflected in the state’s papers filed last week, the governor will announce the date for the special election for New York’s 11th Congressional District shortly,” a Cuomo spokeswoman said Tuesday.
"The right to representation in government is the central pillar of democracy in thiscountry," Weinstein wrote in his 42-page opinion. "Unjustified delay in filling a vacancy cannot be countenanced."
Weinstein added that the court decided on the date instead of the governor "would cause this court great regret."
Attorneys for the state previously argued that Cuomo had wide discretion for a setting an election date to represent the district that covers Staten Island and parts of southern Brooklyn vacated by Grimm in early January after he pleaded guilty to federal tax fraud.
"I understand on the one hand you want to get an election done as soon as possible," Cuomo told reporters last week. "On the other hand, they're expensive to conduct."
A special election will cost taxpayers an estimated $1 million.
The district is home to about 191,000 registered Democrats and approximately 105,500 Republicans. Grimm, a Republican, was reelected in November amid the federal investigation into his tax records.