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Chris Jacobs has $747,878 head start in race for Chris Collins' seat

WASHINGTON – State Sen. Chris Jacobs of Buffalo has built a $747,878 head start on other Republicans who may be contemplating a race for the congressional seat currently held by Rep. Chris Collins, a Clarence Republican.

That's how much money Jacobs put together in a mere six weeks after declaring his campaign for the seat on May 17. The end-of-the-quarter campaign finance report that he will file next week will show that he raised $446,273 in contributions, and then lent $325,000 of his own money to his effort, while spending only $23,395.

That report, which Jacobs' campaign shared with The Buffalo News on Thursday, showed his effort starting off stronger financially than any local congressional race in memory, and perhaps in history.

In contrast, Collins took in only $5,750 in donations in the first reporting period after announcing his 2012 race for Congress, although he also lent his campaign $250,000. And it took Nate McMurray, the Democrat who nearly beat Collins last year, 10 months to raise as much money as Jacobs put together in six weeks.

Jacobs said he raised all that money the old-fashioned way: by asking for it.

"I met with people and called people about my run, and asked them for help, and certainly financially, many of them were willing to do that," Jacobs said.

He also held two fundraisers: a high-dollar affair in East Aurora on June 19 and another for smaller donors.

The majority of the money he pulled in – $440,073 – came from individual donors. His campaign said that 88.8% of the money came from the 27th district, a sprawling and largely Republican expanse between Buffalo and Rochester.

The list of Jacobs' donors reads like a who's who of Buffalo business leaders. Retired pasta baron Anthony H. Gioia; Mark Hamister of the Hamister Group; Peter Hunt of Hunt Real Estate; and longtime businessman Patrick P. Lee all contributed to Jacobs' effort, as did members of Jacobs' family. Chris Jacobs' late father, Dr. Lawrence D. Jacobs, was a prominent neurologist, and his cousin, Jeremy Jacobs Jr., is the co-chief executive officer of Delaware North Cos.

Gioia, long a Republican fundraiser and a former U.S. ambassador to Malta, was stunned when he heard how much money Jacobs had pulled in.

"He was always expected to raise a lot of money, but this exceeds those expectations," said Gioia, a longtime Jacobs family friend.

Jacobs also continued a tradition of putting a lot of his own money into the race.

"A lot of people have invested in me in this race, and I just felt it was important that I was invested as well," he said.

Jacobs' cash haul gives him a huge head start over any of the other big-name Republicans who may be contemplating a bid to succeed Collins.

Collins takes aim at Jacobs as race for Congress heats up

Collins has been charged with felony insider trading and has not yet committed to running again. But he seemed energized by Jacobs' bid, lashing out against him as a "never-Trumper" even though Politifact New York showed there's no evidence that Jacobs does not back President Trump.

David Bellavia, an Iraq War hero who recently received a Medal of Honor from Trump, may enter the race, but has refused to commit to it yet. Local lawyer and Fox News commentator Beth A. Parlato is also contemplating a run.

Asked if he built such a huge campaign war chest so soon to discourage other possible candidates from entering the race, Jacobs cited another reason for doing so.

"I think it is very important to scale up a campaign professionally and quickly so that I will be able to convey my message and introduce myself to a lot of the district that doesn't know me," Jacobs said. "I thought it was important to do that and to do that early. I want to make sure that this seat remains in Republican hands and I want to show Republican voters that I'm the right person to do that."

Jacobs certainly has far more resources to do that than Collins did when he ran against Bellavia in a GOP primary in 2012. Federal records show that Collins spent only $195,129 on that primary campaign.

But Collins spent another $1.1 million to defeat then-Rep. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, that fall. And he spent $1.8 million to defeat McMurray last year.

That being the case, Jacobs – who vowed to stay in the congressional race even if Bellavia enters it – knows his fundraising has just begun.

"We have more money that we need to raise, in my vision of this," he said.

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