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200 expected at Bannon rally, but will candidates show?

Conservative firebrand Steve Bannon will be there; so will an expected 200 people who signed up to attend a Republican get-out-the-vote rally Wednesday at the Jamison Road Volunteer Fire Company in Elma.

But it remains to be seen if any of the candidates to benefit from the affair will join the controversial Bannon, the one-time close ally of President Trump. As of late Tuesday, organizer Michael R. Caputo knew of none.

“They are welcome to come but nobody is required to come,” he said. “We haven’t heard from anybody, but we didn’t ask anyone to RSVP either. And people are coming to hear Steve Bannon, not the local candidates.”

Still, Caputo anticipates a large crowd of about 200, surpassing a much sparser Monday gathering of only 38 people for Bannon on Trump-friendly Staten Island. He added that Bannon’s political group called Citizens for the American Republic is sponsoring the rally and paying for the fire hall rental.

“If we’re not sold out now we will be momentarily,” Caputo said late Tuesday.

One of the main beneficiaries of the event is expected to be Rep. Chris Collins, the GOP incumbent suddenly facing a tough race against Democrat Nate McMurray following the congressman’s federal indictment on insider trading charges. Many Republican officials continue to fear that his normal supporters may stay home or not mark his ballot because of the indictment.

His spokeswoman, Natalie Baldassarre, did not return phone calls asking if Collins planned to attend the rally.

Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy, meanwhile, said a conflict with the annual Amherst Republican Dinner featuring attorney general candidate Keith Wofford may prevent his attendance at the Elma rally.

“It’s up in the air,” he said.

Langworthy said he views the rally mainly as a benefit for Assemblyman David J. DiPietro of East Aurora, for whom Caputo works as campaign manager. But he also supports an effort to rally the area’s Republican vote.

“Any time people are reminded to vote, that’s a good thing,” he said. “Certainly in Elma and the DiPietro district, a pro-Trump message will be helpful.”

Caputo said he expects some protesters to attend, noting they will be sent to a county-owned strip of land across from the fire hall. Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner, meanwhile, joined with area labor leaders in noting that they planned no organized protests.

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