In the 2004 U.S. Senate election, Schumer had defeated Republican Assemblyman Howard Mills by a 71 to 24 percent margin. Schumer is highly popular in New York, so it was believed that any Republican contender would likely not fare well against him in 2010.2 Schumer was heavily favored to retain his seat.3
In addition to this regular election, there was also a special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, who became the United States Secretary of State on January 21, 2009. In addition, there was the New York gubernatorial election. The existence of two other top-level statewide races, one with a vulnerable Democratic incumbent and the other an open race, respectively,4 was believed to lead major New York Republicans to gravitate towards them rather than challenge the popular Schumer.25 As it happened, however, the Republican Party had difficulty in drawing top-tier candidates to any of the three races.
Gary Berntsen, retired CIA officer, received the party's endorsement on the second round of balloting6
James Staudenraus, Long Island resident and 2008 state assembly candidate9
Jay Townsend, Republican strategist (finished second and also qualified for the primary)6
Only two candidates, Bernsen and Townsend, obtained at least 25% of the vote at the New York State Republican Convention on June 1, 2010. Bernsen came in first, but still needed to win the primary in order to win the Republican nomination.