New Yorkers in an upstate district near Rochester have elected a deceased man to the state Assembly. Republican Bill Nojay shot and killed himself Friday on his family’s Rochester cemetery plot as police officers rushed to the scene. The circumstances of his suicide are still being investigated, but fraud allegations had been swirling around Nojay’s ventures outside the legislature. Nojay was reportedly due in court the day of his death on federal charges for allegedly embezzling from a trust fund that he managed for a friend. Nojay was also facing trial in Cambodia, where he and three other men were accused of bilking $1 million from an investor in a rice export business that prosecutors allege was a front.
Nojay, a Trump supporter, was first elected to the Assembly in 2012 as a very conservative, pro-gun candidate. His GOP primary challenger, Rick Milne, the mayor of Honeoye Falls, did not overcome his opponent’s fraud accusations, or his lack of pulse, and lost by about 1,000 votes from conservative strongholds in the 133rd Assembly district. But Nojay’s victory wasn’t totally surprising — party leaders were still urging voters to cast their ballots for the dead incumbent. A rule now gives GOP party leaders in the three counties that make up the 133rd district ten days to choose a new candidate to face off against Democratic candidate Barbara Baer — and almost definitely beat her — in November. Milne, the technical runner-up who stopped formally campaigning after Nojay’s suicide, asked that he be selected. “I really believe we would have fared better with Mr. Nojay still alive,” Milne told the Associated Press. Several other people have reportedly put their names forward, but GOP leaders have not named the people’s candidate just yet.