While the nomination of Senator Chris Jacobs in the 27th congressional district — New York’s most conservative — has sparked a widening divide inside the local Republican Party, new polling suggests that Jacobs would earn the support of a vast majority of party members if he were to instead challenge incumbent Democrat Brian Higgins of South Buffalo.
Many party activists want to ensure that the 27th district seat is held by a conservative firebrand rather than a policy moderate. Given that the seat enjoys an 11 point enrollment advantage for the Republican, it provides the seat holder insulation from the pendulum swing of state politics and often enables him or her to take more principled positions. That’s no small asset for a party organization in a deep-blue State and on the brink of shut-out in the next redistricting.
In contrast, the 26th district encompasses the City of Buffalo, its first-ring suburbs, and the City of Niagara Falls — where Democrats have an 11-point enrollment advantage. Because winning that seat would expand the Republican majority in the House of Representatives — and because Jacobs’ moderate policy positions would make a solidly Democrat seat competitive — many Republican foot soldiers have been encouraging Jacobs to wage his campaign for Congress in the 26th district rather than the 27th.
It’s unclear if he will heed that advice.
Higgins is being challenged in the Democratic Party primary by Buffalo businessman Eddie Egriu, whose support of universal healthcare puts him considerably to the left of the incumbent. Higgins supports legislation that would allow individuals over 50 years old to ‘buy into Medicare’ at federally established rates.
Meanwhile, a cabal of Republican activists plan to circulate ‘Draft Don Junior’ petitions for the 27th district primary, though it is unclear whether President Donald J. Trump‘s son would accept or decline that designation petition.
The Washington-based political action committee, The Club for Growth, plans to spend $1 million to ensure that the Republican primary held on June 23 ensures the nominee is willing to work constructively with the President.
Facing blowback from party stalwarts and calls for investigations into his financial entanglements with the Jacobs family, State Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy — who showed up unannounced to ‘manage’ the ‘electorate of eight’ deliberations conducted by the eight country chairman who comprise the 27th district — he has distanced himself from the nomination in recent days.
Langworthy’s wife, Erin Baker, was hired by Jacobs just months ago to serve as his campaign’s Director of Fundraising. Critics suspect her compensation agreement is on a commission basis and Jacobs has already fundraised $1 million for the race. Baker has not yet disclosed the terms of her employment agreement or how much she has been paid to date.
Jacobs is the political scion of Buffalo’s wealthiest family, and such a role in his campaign would prove lucrative, in the event that he secured the nomination. Critics say that Langworthy has an ongoing financial inventive to secure the nomination for Jacobs — and many have been calling on the Southern District of New York to investigate.
That comes as Erie County Conservative Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo rejected the prospect of Jacobs receiving the party’s nomination in the special election scheduled for April 28 — seen as a major blow to the campaign. Instead, Lorigo will keep the ballot line empty, which is seen as a favor to Jacobs. Sources speculate that, if Lorigo were to nominate Jacobs he would risk being ousted as chairman by the party’s executive committee.
Lorigo is an increasingly unpopular figure among those in the local second amendement movement. His willingness to offer the party’s nomination to a Democrat running in the 9th legislative district, ensured that Democrats would control the County Legislature. Some believe that Democrat Michelle Schoeneman, who was running against Lorigo’s son, declined to submit the petitions she had circulated in an elusive deal with the Conservative Party chairman.
Now, with a rising local Libertarian movement, Lorigo risks political irrelevance. His critics say that he is too consumed with ‘small-ball’ issues, is too oriented around the next election cycle, lacks a long-view prosperity agenda that can be advanced at the local level, and hasn’t built the tactical infrastructure that would be necessary to grow the infleunce and membership of the party.
Some — even loyalists who attend his weekly Saturday breakfast club — have begun to wonder aloud why Lorigo isn’t harnessing the youthful energy and enthusiasm of the local Libertarian movement. The party is seen as increasingly stale. In recent days, Lorigo has been encouraged to nominate Erie County Libertarian Party Chairman Duane Whitmer for Congress in the 27th district. Such a move could be the proverbial ‘shot in the arm’ that local party needs.
Republicans Stefan Mychajliw and Beth Parlato have committed to seeking the Republican nomination in the June 23rd primary. State Senator Rob Ortt is considering entering as well, but has not made his intentions public.