On Friday, House Democrats will face the early resignation of Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) from the traditionally Democratic 26th Congressional District, encompassing Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Despite having the opportunity for a farewell speech, Higgins has chosen a quieter exit, citing his disillusionment with the evolving nature of Congress. Having served since 2005, he expressed frustration, attributing the changes to what he perceives as Republicans’ weaponization of legislative processes. In November, when he announced his retirement, Higgins criticized the House’s current leadership, accusing them of dysfunction.
While a special election is expected in April to fill the vacant seat, Governor Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) is likely to schedule it within the next ten days. In December, Hochul faced a similar task after the expulsion of Rep. George Santos. Notably, she initially believed she had the power to fill the vacancy by nomination, sparking controversy. The Erie County Democratic Committee has already endorsed State Sen. Tim Kennedy (D-63rd District) for the upcoming special election, positioning him as a frontrunner.
Higgins’ departure, although temporary, has implications for the Democrats, who are grappling with an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. With an already narrow majority, Higgins’ resignation could potentially impact the dynamics of impeachment votes, depending on the timeline. The Republicans, aiming to capitalize on the situation, are navigating challenges, including a tight majority and ongoing inquiries, to reshape the political landscape ahead of future elections.