Erie County Conservative Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo wasn't just passed over in his bid to become the state's Conservative Party chairman. He didn't even get to make his case Saturday, thanks to a delayed JetBlue flight.
"I couldn’t get there," he said. "I still have my suit on."
Lorigo, 71, was expected to be a long-shot contender for the seat held by outgoing chairman Michael R. Long. He was one of two candidates in a special election for the state party post, the favorite being downstate leader Gerard Kassar, a former Brooklyn party chairman.
When the news release went out naming Kassar, 60, as the new state chairman, Lorigo was sitting in his office, after frantically sending emails trying to persuade downstate committee members to delay the special election until he could get there.
His flight was supposed to leave at 8:01 a.m., but was repeatedly delayed until 12:45 p.m. The party meeting started at 1 p.m. When Lorigo called Long with the bad news, Long said he'd see what he could do and offered to hold up his cell phone and press the speaker button so committee members could hear what Lorigo had to say.
Lorigo, who had spent considerable time putting together a presentation, along with three forwarded packets of information he'd already mailed to the committee members, said that wasn't good enough and asked for a postponement.
Instead, Kassar, a lifelong Brooklyn resident attending the special party meeting in Brooklyn, got the nod by committee members, most of whom live in New York City, Lorigo said. When reached by The Buffalo News, Lorigo had not yet gotten a follow-up call regarding the meeting or its outcome.
But in the release sent out to media, Kassar said, "To our Erie County Chairman Ralph Lorigo, thank you for a good race in which we engaged party leaders in discussions concerning the future of the party. These conversations and written exchanges will act as the foundation of my efforts."
Kassar has been active in New York politics for more than 40 years, most recently as chief of staff to former Republican State Sen. Martin Golden of Brooklyn. He is the longtime chairman of Brooklyn Conservatives, has been close to Long for many years, and along with Lorigo, served as a state vice chairman.
Lorigo said he knew it was unlikely he would receive support for the state chairmanship, but looked at the meeting as an opportunity to meet committee members and get his message out, tout his strengths and push for a new party direction. He pointed out that while the state's Conservative Party has shrunk by a few thousand members over the last 20 years, the Erie County Conservative Party has grown and been successful in catapulting local candidates to office.
That would have put him in a better spot to make another push for the chairmanship in July 2020. That's when the chair will be up for election for a full term, with votes by party leaders across the entire state.
"I’m still in it," he said.