The Republican nomination of State Senator Christopher Jacobs in New York’s 27th congressional district is igniting a fierce schism inside the party that longtime party operatives describe as tantamount to a declaration of war against the conservative base of the party.
State Chairman Nick Langworthy, who orchestrated Jacobs’ nomination from behind the scenes — even showed up unannounced to participate in the ‘electorate of eight’ deliberations (the eight-county chairmen that comprise the congressional district select a candidate directly in special elections).
In fact, Langworthy had been working for months to secure the nomination for Jacobs, and privately plotted with his wife, Erin Baker, who was hired by Jacobs to serve as his fundraising director. Baker has not yet released details of her employment agreement with Jacobs, or how much she has been compensated for her campaign role.
Some critics speculate that Baker is compensated on a commission-like basis, which would have given the Chairmen a direct financial incentive to ensure that Jacobs secured the nomination. Jacobs has already fundraised more than $1 million for the campaign — and has unapologetically hosted fundraisers in Midtown Manhattan.
Jacobs is the political scion of Buffalo’s wealthiest family — the owners of the casino operator Delaware North and the Boston Bruins. The Jacobs family’s wealth has been valued at upwards of $5 billion.
Even before it became clear that the selection process was fixed before the eight chairmen met to interview contenders yesterday, conservative activists in the district — and Second Amendment activists, in particular — have been warning party officials that a Jacobs nomination would instigate a fierce schism inside the party.
They had been advocating for the nomination of State Senator Rob Ortt, who is unabashedly supportive of the second amendment and is a war hero who received a Purple Heart for his service in Afghanistan.
Jacobs’ moderate policy positions are not popular among the base of the Republican Party — and the 27th district is New York’s most conservative. He has been hostile to second amendment groups, has expressed support for the NYSAFE Act, and has cast what they see as a ‘slew of big-government votes’ in the State Senate.
The Trump family is rumored to be irate
President Donald J. Trump had sent Jeff Freeland, a Lewiston native and a White House staffer who has worked closely with the president’s impeachment defense team, to the chairman’s meeting to offer his candidacy.
Very politely, and using different words, Langworthy told Freeland to ‘fuck-off’ — and the brush off is said to have infuriated Trump, who has since been brewing over the situation. Jacobs is well-known as being an anti-Trumper, and the White House wants to avoid enabling more ‘Mitt Romneys’ whenever possible.
The president is said to have taken particular offense to Langworthy’s behavior because it was Trump and White House staffers who rounded up the votes to secure the State Chairmanship for Langworthy just last year. Yesterday’s events have been interpreted as ‘deeply disloyal’. A source familiar with Donald Trump, Jr‘s thinking called it a ‘slap in the face.’
A special election, then a primary
Conservative activists in the district are already planning to wage a resistance campaign against Jacobs, and Jacobs may very well lose the special election scheduled for April 28 — the same day as the presidential primary, when Democrats will be voting en masse.
Add to that turnout disadvantage a very robust Libertarian candidate in Duane Whitmer, who has been waging an aggressive campaign in concert with Western New York’s second amendment movement, and a Jacobs win looks increasingly unlikely — and increasingly costly.
Party footsoldiers prefer that Jacobs loses the special election so that the members of the party can participate in a proper primary on June 23 with lots of candidate choices, an open process, and a fair vote by all party members. It is important, they argue, to send someone to Congress who is sincerely willing to work constructively with President Trump.