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Upstate, Buffalo need voice in Albany, Jacobs says in Senate bid

When Christopher L. Jacobs stood in one of his gleaming, redeveloped storefronts on Main Street on Friday to announce he will run for the State Senate, it seemed as though he was showing local voters what he can accomplish.

“I want to take that passion for this area, and my experience in the private sector, the nonprofit sector and the public sector and be your next New York State senator,” the Republican county clerk said before a few dozen family, friends and supporters.

A downtown developer who has initiated a scholarship fund for local students to attend private schools of their choice, Jacobs seems poised to launch a more than competitive effort to capture the seat that Marc C. Panepinto said he will give up after one term.

Jacobs scored impressive numbers in the mostly Democratic district during an unsuccessful Senate run in 2006, and has since notched overwhelming countywide victories competing for county clerk.

But now he launches a Senate bid that could prove the focal point of GOP efforts to retain the upper house in a district with 35,000 more Democrats than Republicans. He also plunges into a contest where he will emphasize the importance of keeping the Senate in Republican hands, hoping Democrats and independent voters will listen.

“The Senate is the only place that has a voice for upstate and for Western New York,” he said of Republican control. “I think that’s critical.”

He is also expected to gain Conservative support.

Jacobs, 49, said he sees much of Albany’s political dynamic as upstate versus downstate. He said he will respond to the needs of the Buffalo area and not to those of Albany or New York City. That emphasis has often resulted in “damaging laws” for all of New York, he said. “There lies the challenge, and there lies the opportunity,” he said.

He also noted the pattern of corruption and scandal dogging the Capitol in recent years, which he said most often involves leaders and those who have “been there too long.” He did not mention the initial phases of an inquiry by the state’s chief ethics agency into Panepinto’s 15-month stint in the Senate, but emphasized “Albany has lost its way.”

After the last election for the 60th District rang up costs exceeding $3 million, most observers expect this year’s effort to result in similar investments. Senate Republicans in Albany are excited about the Jacobs candidacy, and money is not expected to prove a problem for him.

Jacobs may have to face a GOP primary opponent, however. Kenmore attorney Kevin T. Stocker has been campaigning door-to-door for months and is expected to force a repeat of the 2014 primary that he won in 2014.

On the Democratic side, Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan of Buffalo has emerged as the leading candidate to succeed Panepinto. He has said he is considering the contest, but will not decide for several more weeks.

Besides Ryan, other Democrats expressing interest include:

• Amber A. Small, executive director of the Parkside Community Association, who was passed over earlier this year by the county Democratic Party in favor of Panepinto. She has already declared her candidacy and begun campaigning.

• Michael P. Quinn Jr., an attorney and former ironworker who is Hamburg Democratic chairman. He had previously expressed interest, and is again exploring a candidacy.

• Alfred T. Coppola, a former Buffalo Common Council member from the Delaware District, who briefly held the Senate seat after a special election in 2000. He almost won the 2014 primary against Panepinto, coming within 613 votes.

• Lisa M. Chimera, a Town Board member in Tonawanda who has frequently been mentioned as a Senate candidate.