Attorney Beth A. Parlato is checking off all the requirements of running for the 27th Congressional District – filing papers on Friday and officially announcing her candidacy today via social media.
But her first appearances this past weekend may best illustrate how the Darien Republican and occasional guest on Fox News political shows will campaign – not at a news conference before cameras and notebooks, but working the thousands of evangelical Christians attending the Kingdom Bound Festival that kicked off Sunday evening in her hometown.
“It will be more effective than some rah-rah rally about Beth Parlato,” she said a few days ago during an interview with The Buffalo News. “I need to inspire; get my people on board. And this is where they will be.”
Parlato, 52, joins State Sen. Christopher L. Jacobs of Buffalo as the second Republican to declare for the seat now held by Rep. Chris Collins of Clarence – who would normally be viewed as a fifth-term shoo-in if not for the federal trial he faces next year on insider trading charges. Parlato, a family law specialist who served 12 years as Darien town justice, launches her campaign as the only woman in the prospective field. She labels herself a “political outsider” with “an unapologetic conservative voice” that she believes reflects the most Republican congressional district in all of New York.
While some potential participants are watching and waiting for David G. Bellavia, the Medal of Honor recipient and veteran of the district’s 2012 GOP primary, to definitively address his potential candidacy, Parlato says she will run no matter what.
“He won the Medal of Honor because he fought for our freedom, and I can tell Bellavia today I will honor his service by fighting to preserve those freedoms,” she said. “But I’m in.”
Parlato faces challenges in raising money and earning name recognition. Besides the well-known and well-heeled Jacobs, Collins has signaled another run by dropping $500,000 of his own money into his campaign fund.
In addition, several sources say State Sen. Robert G. Ortt of North Tonawanda will declare soon. Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr. is actively exploring a candidacy, and Assemblyman Stephen Hawley of Genesee County is also mentioned.
Meanwhile, Parlato seems to be taking all the right steps. She has retained a Columbus consulting firm with national experience in supporting conservative Republicans. She spent several days last week filming her announcement video, and plans to tap into national conservative connections for fundraising. She has also hired Marc Honan, former vice president of marketing and broadcasting for the Buffalo Bills who later worked for Pegula Sports and Entertainment, as communications manager.
Parlato already believes she is sounding the right message for the eight-county, suburban-rural district south of Buffalo and Rochester. Her top priorities include a view that Democrats – especially women newcomers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the Bronx – are charting a “sharp, sharp turn to the left."
“It’s a leftist, socialist agenda, and I think we are one election away from socialism,” she said. “We need stronger voices for women other than AOC, Pelosi and the Squad. They’ve become the voices of the Democratic Party.”
She notes that only 13 Republican women now serve in the House, and that an agenda for women should not be defined by the females of the Democratic Party. She returns over and over to that theme, as well as calling herself a “doer.”
“There are no doers in Washington. I’m a doer, and I’ve been a doer in every aspect of my life,” she said. “I’m not a career politician. I’m not flip-flopping. I am who I am.”
Parlato says she fears for the future of American families as “the values we talk about around the kitchen table come under attack.”
“We’re dehumanizing and devaluing human life, religious liberty is under attack, and traditional family values are under attack,” she said.
Skeptics say few people know Parlato beyond Genesee County, that she maintains no base in the big counties of Erie and Niagara, and that she cannot match the fundraising prowess of her more established rivals. But she notes she has gained a following from several appearances as a conservative panelist on Fox News after the network was seeking commentators on legal and family matters.
And significantly, she has formed national fundraising contacts through her involvement with conservative organizations like Moms for America and Concerned Women for America. She serves on the Moms for America board to support its mission of helping young mothers teach traditional American values, and traveled with the group to the southwest border to study immigration issues.
“He’s done a good job,” she says of President Trump’s handling of the border situation, “but I’m not happy with Congress."
Concerned Women for America, she says, is the nation’s largest organization of conservative women. Both national groups have introduced her to the kind of people from around the nation capable of helping fund a congressional campaign.
She acknowledges her inability to write a $325,000 check like Jacobs to launch her effort. But she has set a goal of equaling or raising more than the $422,878 Jacobs gained from other contributions by the next reporting period.
“I would not give up my practice and throw my family into this without believing I have a chance,” she said. “I’m going to win.”