With the recent announcement that Chris Gibson would be serving his last term in New York’s 19th Congressional district, speculation as to who might serve as a suitable replacement quickly began.  Gibson’s early retirement announcement led many to believe he’d be seeking higher office come 2018, but also allowed the GOP to screen candidates for his seat – one that many believe Democrats will be pushing hard to gain.

Less than a month after Gibson’s announcement, a grassroots campaign has cropped up seeking to draft Assemblyman Pete Lopez to fill the role.  He took interest in the possibility of running for the seat almost immediately, telling the Times Journal in mid-January that “It’s very early, but yes, I’m interested.”

Lopez lives in Schoharie, and was first elected to the state Assembly in 2006 with 58% of the vote.

A “Draft Pete Lopez for Congress” page has cropped up on Facebook, supporting the man who has been a Republican since he was 20.

On the page, Lopez has been quoted critiquing Governor Cuomo and the recently arrested State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Lopez said that Cuomo was “forceful” and takes advantage of initiatives, and working with the Governor often made him feel as if he’s riding “blindfolded.”  He also called for Silver’s resignation, saying his legal woes are “deeply disturbing” and serve as little more than a “distraction as we try to serve the public.”

Lopez has highlighted several issues that he considers top priorities, many of which focus on the economy, small business, and the middle class.  He is seeking tax relief for hard working families, initiatives to grow both jobs and local businesses, and has focused on energy independence for New York.

Additionally, Lopez served in the trenches as his community was struck by natural disasters, earning a Times Journal Star of the Year Award for his dedicated efforts in helping communities recover from the devastation of Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Tropical Storm Lee.

Aside from the grassroots initiative, Lopez enjoys support from the Hispanic Coalition NY, a group that has praised him for his recovery efforts and said he is “always looking for ways to give back to his community.”

A Republican official from the district said Lopez has a solid support base for the congressional seat.

“You will see many of the party leaders get behind Pete very quickly.  If you look at the congressional district and where Assemblyman Lopez currently represents, it’s a natural fit for him to easily be the Republican nominee.”

Local activist Chris Trauge spoke of Lopez as a man of principle.

“I know Pete to be honest, genuine, hardworking and a man with lots of integrity,” Trauge stated.

“He’s someone we can trust and would make a fine choice to replace Congressman Gibson.”

As an Assemblyman, Lopez and Gibson shared numerous counties as representatives, working together on flood recovery and economic development.