Donald Trump is turning to the establishment to guide his anti-establishment presidential campaign in New York State.
More than 30 county chairmen, a host of elected officials and even a former gubernatorial candidate were introduced as the Republican presidential front-runner’s New York leaders Wednesday night during a massive rally of thousands of supporters in Bethpage, Nassau County.
They will now command a potent political force – armed with all the power of the New York GOP machinery – to get out the vote for the Manhattan billionaire when Republicans vote in the primary April 19.
Major Western New York figures such as Rep. Chris Collins of Clarence and Buffalo developer Carl P. Paladino – the 2010 gubernatorial candidate – are included in the effort. They have been named “honorary co-chairmen” of the New York campaign, giving the Trump effort a distinctive Western New York flavor.
“I calculate 62 percent of the state’s weighted vote is endorsing Trump,” said Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy, another supporter who attended the Bethpage event. “It says he has a lot of support in a state he’s going to win.”
Trump can use the help of the state’s GOP leaders, even if he has railed against the party throughout his campaign. Now, he urgently needs a big win in his home state following Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s decisive victory Tuesday in the Wisconsin primary.
“It certainly makes it easier than in Wisconsin, where the entire apparatus of the statewide party was working against him,” Langworthy added.
Trump is now slated to bring his campaign to Buffalo in its final days with a major rally April 17 in First Niagara Center. Now, the job of filling seats in an arena with a capacity of more than 18,000 will fall on local party leaders such as Langworthy.
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But local leaders are confident of a robust turnout for the Trump event. Langworthy said he expects the Trump rally to outshine the Tuesday appearance in Depew by former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton’s scheduled Friday event at the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum downtown.
“The fact that she’s going to the Pierce-Arrow shows she can’t fill the downtown arena,” Langworthy said.
Leaders such as Langworthy and Niagara County GOP Chairman Scott P. Kiedrowski also will dedicate their entire organizational capacities to the Trump campaign. Langworthy said that means door-to-door operations and phone banks that “will try to inspire people to vote.”
Also, Trump signs and bumper stickers are en route to the area for distribution to supporters, Langworthy said.
As part of the ramped-up efforts, Paladino appeared on the Fox Business Network on Tuesday while in Manhattan and said he expects to expand the role he has assumed in the Trump effort over the last six months.
That means special concentration on upstate, Paladino said.
“We anticipate winning every congressional district by more than 50 percent,” Paladino said, meaning that Trump would score a clean sweep of the state’s 95 regular delegates.
Paladino also expects the campaign to establish a regional headquarters in Ellicott Square, which he owns, in downtown Buffalo.
Collins, meanwhile, is already emerging as a major figure in the Trump campaign.
The candidate last week named him as a co-chairman, along with Rep. Duncan D. Hunter of California, to head his congressional effort, and he has assumed the same capacity for the state campaign.
So far, Collins said, this has translated into approximately 30 appearances promoting the Trump candidacy on national news programs.
“As different things come up and they ask me to get up early in the morning to be on CNN with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota, I’ll be there,” he said.
Collins expects to help coordinate election activities with other party leaders and establish a Trump campaign ground game in Western New York.
“We’re looking for a nice showing wherever and whenever,” Collins said. “We’re talking about good local politics.”
He also said he does not expect any significant media ad campaign on Trump’s part since the candidate earns so much free television exposure.
“Any money spent on TV or radio in New York is better spent elsewhere,” Collins said.
Meanwhile, the first evidence of the Cruz campaign surfaced Wednesday on the eve of the senator’s initial New York appearance Thursday in Scotia, Schenectady County, where he was scheduled to appear at a Christian school. Sources say he expects to rely heavily on his evangelical connections to help schedule appearances in New York, where he has little organization.
Still, Cruz is gaining new attention following his victory over Trump in Wisconsin and is attempting to carry over his new momentum into more hostile Empire State territory. Russ Gugino, a veteran GOP operative from Hamburg who once served on the congressional staff of the late Jack Kemp, said he is now helping coordinate Cruz’s activities in Western New York.
He said he expects Cruz to schedule a Buffalo appearance next week, as well as outreach efforts to local party leaders and the Hispanic community.
All three remaining Republican candidates, including Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich, are scheduled to appear at the state Republican Party’s annual gala at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan on April 14, which is expected to be a major event in the New York campaign.
Kasich supporters have not yet shown any indication of a Western New York campaign beyond his scheduled appearance Saturday in the Rochester suburb of Greece.