COLONIE - The state Independence Party Saturday nominated Southampton lawyer Stephen J. Lynch for state attorney general, though party leaders said he may well be replaced by a Democrat or Republican before the November elections.

In the race for state comptroller, the party's convention backed Republican Harry Wilson over incumbent Democrat Thomas DiNapoli, despite years of support for the latter's Assembly bids and his 2001 run for Nassau County executive.

The 68-minute convention, held in this Albany suburb, also nominated Democrats Andrew Cuomo for governor, Robert Duffy for lieutenant governor, and incumbent Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Lynch, Independence leader in Southampton Town, denied being a placeholder for the five Democrats and one Republican hoping to succeed Cuomo as New York's top prosecutor. "I'm in it all the way, no matter what happens," he said.

However, state Independence chief Frank MacKay, of Rocky Point, said leaders would "assess [Lynch's] chances of running a viable campaign after the September primary," when the Democratic nominee will be known. He added Lynch could be nominated for a judicial office or appointed to one to free up the ballot line.

Of the five Democrats vying for attorney general, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice is a strong contender to also get the Independence nod, according to Bobby Kumar, the party's Nassau chairman. A Rice spokesman didn't return a telephone call seeking comment.

Former state insurance chief Eric Dinallo and state Sen. Eric Schneiderman of Manhattan aren't pursuing the Independence line, aides said. Assemb. Richard Brodsky of Westchester said he wanted to know more about the party before seeking an endorsement.

Citing an investigation of a money transfer by the Independence Party, former federal prosecutor Sean Coffey said accepting its support would be a conflict of interest for attorney general candidates. A Manhattan grand jury is looking into the legality of $750,000 funneled from the party to a firm run by John Haggerty Jr., a Republican operative from Queens. The funds were part of a $1.2-million donation to the party from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Haggerty has denied wrongdoing. Bloomberg is not a probe target.

Republican Daniel M. Donovan Jr., the Staten Island district attorney, "has pursued and would welcome the Independence Party line," his spokeswoman said. The party is New York's third largest with about 414,000 members.

Wilson now has three ballot lines to DiNapoli's one, though DiNapoli is expected to pick up the Working Families Party nomination Sunday. "Tom DiNapoli has enjoyed the support of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, and he will do so in November," campaign manager Mark Benoit said.

MacKay retorted his party "was supporting the most qualified candidate."

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