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Stefan Mychajliw passes on 2019 race for county executive

Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr., the Erie County comptroller who all but declared his candidacy for county executive earlier this year, said Thursday he will not oppose incumbent Democrat Mark C. Poloncarz in 2019.

The Republican acknowledged he was raising money and seriously considering a county executive race earlier in 2018, but he also said “everything changed” when Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Aug. 8. Even though Collins was re-elected to a fourth two-year term on Nov. 6, Mychajliw said Thursday he will be ready should a congressional vacancy occur.

“My heart is set on running for Congress in NY27 if and when that seat opens up,” he said, noting the interest in the post expressed by several Republicans when Collins temporarily suspended – and then resumed – campaigning following the indictment.

“People appreciate and understand entirely that the political universe was rocked that day and that plans change,” he added.

The comptroller, who has won three countywide elections as a Republican in overwhelmingly Democratic Erie County, said he informed Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy of his decision early on Thursday.

Langworthy has not commented on recruiting efforts for the Poloncarz race, but he is nevertheless known to be preparing for 2019. While he is not talking, Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo said this week he expects to partner with the GOP against the Democratic incumbent and mentioned State Sen. Christopher L. Jacobs, R-Buffalo, as a possible opponent.

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“I would like to encourage him into that race,” Lorigo said. “He has crossover appeal, he’s not really partisan, and he’s a hard worker. Jacobs’ name has entered several conversations in recent weeks, especially after his GOP lost its Senate majority in November and his Albany influence is expected to significantly diminish."

“I have talked to Chris and he didn’t say no,” Lorigo said.

Jacobs did not return a Thursday call seeking comment.

Meanwhile, Mychajliw emerged as a major contender for the congressional nod of party leaders in the eight-county district when it appeared Collins was dropping out of the race. But the congressman reversed himself in September when he contended that no party officials could guarantee that a substitute candidate would survive the legal challenges promised by Democrats. He also acknowledged that his criminal attorneys were less than pleased about the possibility of separate court action involving the election in which Democrats were expected to charge “fraud.”

Collins has professed his innocence of the insider trading charges lodged by a federal grand jury in Manhattan, and he has vowed to serve his entire term. He is not scheduled to go on trial until February 2020.

When Collins resumed his campaign and ended the hopes of potential Republican replacements for 2018, Mychajliw nevertheless emerged as a major supporter. The comptroller appeared at dozens of events at Collins’ side, to help the campaign – and some say – to introduce himself to 27th Congressional District party leaders and voters.

“The same way we were ready to go in August, I can turn the key and start the operation again,” he told The Buffalo News in November.

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