Republican congressional hopeful David Bellavia picked up key support Monday from State Sen. George D. Maziarz his most significant endorsement to date.
Maziarz, a powerful political figure in Niagara County, bypassed the better-known Chris Collins in a signal that the former Erie County executive will not enjoy unanimous backing from the party hierarchy.
Indeed, Bellavia last week received the endorsement of the Orleans County Republican Committee -- the only GOP organization to weigh in so far.
And while most of Erie County's Republican leaders are expected to fall in behind Collins, the Maziarz support for Bellavia means that the Iraq War veteran launches his effort with backing from a major establishment figure.
"I think it's his turn," Maziarz said, noting that Bellavia has unsuccessfully sought the Republican nod on two previous occasions.
"While I admire David for his military service, it is important for the voters to know his knowledge of national issues far exceeds his opponent in the Republican primary and his general election competitor," Maziarz added. "David knows how those issues impact the working class, because he is just like the constituents of the 27th District -- a hardworking family man who knows what it's like to struggle with high taxes and balancing the family budget."
The senator said he has long been acquainted with the Bellavia family and was instrumental in awarding the Silver Star recipient the New York State Conspicuous Service Cross and inducting him into the New York State Veterans Hall of Fame.
"I am humbled by Sen. Maziarz's early support in this Republican primary because I know he weighs endorsements very carefully," Bellavia said. "His backing is a real shot in the arm for our campaign, especially because almost his entire State Senate district lies within the 27th Congressional District."
Bellavia, a Batavia resident, is considered a major underdog to the well-heeled Collins, who is expected to pour substantial amounts of his own resources into the primary to determine the Republican opponent of Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst.
Collins, of Clarence, is also thought to enjoy widespread name recognition from his four years as county executive and through the television exposure he enjoyed throughout the eight-county district.
Maziarz said he will be committed to the Bellavia candidacy as the June 26 primary date approaches.
"I will do all I can to help him out," the senator said.
Bellavia's campaign is experiencing another positive development this week as Newstead industrialist Jack Davis, a three-time congressional candidate and tea party favorite, is augmenting his recent endorsement with financial support, which he said could be used to pay workers to circulate designating petitions for Bellavia -- as Davis did in his own campaigns.
"I gave him some money, so it probably could be said he could use it like that," Davis said Monday.
The move is considered significant after Bellavia failed to qualify for the ballot as a result of insufficient petition signatures for the special election of 2011, his most recent previous attempt at a congressional candidacy.