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New York candidates spar over special election for Chris Collins seat

New York candidates spar over special election for Chris Collins seat

by Kerry Picket | Washington Examiner  |  Published on October 28, 2019

Candidates in the April 28 special election to fill the New York congressional seat vacated by Chris Collins are already worried they will be pushed out.

The Republican resigned Oct. 1 after pleading guilty to insider trading charges.

The likely date announced by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also the primary day for the presidential election in New York, which will guarantee a high Democrat turnout in a district that President Trump won with nearly 60% of the vote in the last presidential election.

Democrat Kathy Hochul, who now serves as New York’s lieutenant governor, won a special election in a nearby Republican district in 2011 after Republican Rep. Chris Lee vacated the seat. However, after she was redistricted into the 27th District, she faced off with Collins and lost in 2012.

The 27th Congressional District includes mostly rural and suburban areas of Buffalo and Rochester as well as Livingston, Genesee, Wyoming, and Orleans counties. The district also extends into Niagara, Monroe, Erie, and Ontario counties.

“There’s a lot of time between now and April, so whoever wants to run has plenty of time, but that’s what we are considering,” Cuomo said to reporters in Niagara County last week.

“I don’t like to leave a seat open because we lose a voice, we lose a proponent, whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat,” said Cuomo. “I want somebody fighting for western New York.”

However, the winner of the special election would still face a primary election on June 23 and the general election on Nov. 3.

There is no primary in New York’s special election. Candidates are chosen by weighted vote of the state committee members that comprise the congressional district, which makes the largest chunk of the weighted vote in the 27th Erie County, which includes Buffalo.

One New York Republican consultant told the Washington Examiner, “You can envision a scenario where candidates that were not chosen (for the special election) are petitioning in March, during the heat of a special election, to appear on the June primary ballot and potentially face off against a two-month incumbent member chosen by the party leaders.”

State Sen. Chris Jacobs, a Buffalo native and former Erie County clerk, is seen as the Republican Party favorite for the special election. Erin Baker, finance chairwoman for the Erie County Republican Committee and wife of state GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy, has been hired as a fundraising consultant for Jacobs’ campaign.

This relationship, along with Erie County’s power during the special election, does not sit well with other declared candidates.

Beth A. Parlato, a Republican candidate and former Darien town justice, called it “unfortunate” and Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr., the Erie County comptroller described Jacobs as a “Never Trumper” who may have the scales tipped unfairly towards him with this arrangement, according to the Buffalo News.

“My husband has always respected me as an independent political professional and my clients do as well,” Baker said. “Last I checked, it was 2019 and I highly doubt this would be an issue for a man.”

Collins won in 2018 despite being arrested a few months before the election along with his son on charges of insider trading, wire fraud, and lying to the FBI for his investments into Australia-based pharmaceutical company Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited. He had been under investigation for potential violations of House ethics rules related to his dealings with the company and had encouraged other Republican lawmakers to invest.

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