John McHugh is finally Secretary of the Army and Oswego County is temporarily without a Congressman.
McHugh’s confirmation came late Wednesday, just hours after two Kansas senators lifted their hold on McHugh’s nomination and the nominations of a few other people to posts atop the military. They had blocked the nominations because they were angry that the Obama administration may move military detainees from Guantanamo Naval Base to a federal military prison in their state.
The senators said they believe detainees will not be moved to Kansas, so they lifted their holds.
The Senate quickly confirmed McHugh by a voice vote Wednesday night.
McHugh has been the North Country’s Congressman since 1993. He began his career in Watertown city government, became an aide to then-State Sen. Douglas Barclay of Pulaski, and succeeded Barclay in the Senate when Barclay left.
In the House, McHugh headed the committee that oversaw the US Postal Service. He ended his career as the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, giving Watertown’s Fort Drum an influential friend in a high place.
All that’s left for McHugh is to offer his formal resignation and his time in Congress will be over.
The state’s top officials quickly offered congratulations.
“Given Congressman’s McHughÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s stellar qualifications and his dedication to our soldiers and our nation, it is good news that his nomination has gone through,” said US Sen. Chuck Schumer. “It makes all New Yorkers proud that he is serving his nation in this position.”
Fellow Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: “Congressman McHugh is a leader we can count on and the right person for the job. I look forward to working with him and all of my Senate colleagues to make sure our servicemembers and their families have all the resources they need, and to keep American families safe.”
And They’re Off…
McHugh’s departure means that the race to succeed him can officially begin.
Gov. David Paterson will soon announce the date for a special election to fill the 23rd district seat, which covers 11 counties from Oswego and Madison counties on the southern end all the way to the counties on the northern border with Canada.
The election could happen as part of the regular November elections this year.
The candidates are already in place. Republicans nominated Dede Scozzafava of Gouverneur, a state Assembly member whose positions supporting legal abortion and gay marriage so enraged conservatives that the Conservative Party named its own candidate, Doug Hoffman. Democrats chose businessman Bill Owens of Lake Placid, a registered independent who has switched his enrollment to the Democrats.
The top choices of the two major parties declined to run, shifting this race from a top-tier battle to a secondary level, according to national political analysts.
Said Owens, “Secretary McHugh’s confirmation today is a big win for New York, for our Armed Forces and for our country, and I congratulate him on a momentous day for him and for his family.”
“Fortunately, in this scenario, the 23rd Congressional District’s loss is a gain for all Americans, particularly our military personnel,” said Scozzafava. “I was proud to call John my ‘Congressman,’ am now proud to call him ‘Mr. Secretary,’ but will always be proudest to call him my friend.”
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Tonight, I salute our new Secretary of the Army, John McHugh,” said Hoffman in a statement. “His confirmation is good for America, good for New York and good for our troops stationed at Fort Drum. Tomorrow the campaign starts in earnest.”