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Steve Hawley's 'Bloomberg strategy' for promoting his candidacy in NY-27

Robert J. McCarthy

It’s a fairly safe bet that Assemblyman Steve Hawley has never paid dues to the Mike Bloomberg Fan Club, let alone jumped aboard the former mayor of New York’s new presidential campaign.

The Republican legislator from Genesee County didn’t merit the Conservative Party’s 92% rating by backing Bloomberg’s gun control or anti-big soda measures.

But like the former mayor’s late entrance into the Democratic presidential sweepstakes, Hawley’s recent stirrings in the 27th Congressional District free-for-all reflect the same strategy.

“Why not me?” both pols seem to be asking on very different levels, recognizing that nothing is settled in the seat formerly held by Chris Collins nor in Democratic presidential politics either. Just as Bloomberg sees no Dem wrapping up the presidential nod, neither can any Republican claim the 27th District.

Not State Sens. Chris Jacobs and Rob Ortt; not former Darien Town Justice Beth Parlato, and not Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, watching from the sidelines.

Indeed, Hawley appears to embrace the Bloomberg strategy as he starts to actively promote his candidacy. His recognition of a path to the nomination through eight party leaders in the sprawling district may or may not prove accurate, but it does underscore uncertainty even as the state GOP sues to gain an early election.

More and more, those associated with the race recognize the importance of the special election nomination. And from an electorate of eight party leaders may emerge a candidate to be blessed with many advantages.

The Republican nominee for the special election will be heavily favored to win in ruby red NY-27. If successful, that person will then compete in what could prove the nation’s only congressional election of early 2020 – one guaranteed to command the national spotlight.

You can almost envision President Trump traveling to Western New York and filling some rural venue with red MAGA hats.

“Even in liberal New York!” he may shout to the “crooked media” reporting the event.

A big crowd like last week’s in Hershey, Pa., could also figure into a post-impeachment tour for the “witch hunt victim” preparing to take the same message nationally in November.

And by the president’s side will most likely stand the anointed candidate of the party leaders.

There’s more involved here. National Republicans and national money sources will likely pour resources into a district sure to register strong support for the embattled president. And reporters from around the country may suddenly discover places like Java Center and Pembroke.

Of course, nothing will prevent the field of rejects to mount a primary in June. Some, like Jacobs, can enter the fray with more than $1 million in his campaign kitty. Others, like Mychajliw, may count on powerful Washington PACs like the Club for Growth.

Indeed, Parlato ventured to Washington last week to seek support from groups with fat treasuries. Her camp says Parlato met with Empower America (the group founded by the late Hamburg Congressman Jack Kemp), a PAC promoting female candidates, and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

A Parlato source said the candidate also attended a “policy discussion” at the White House. It did not involve the president, the source said, and wouldn’t say anything more. But just the mention of “White House” produces the desired effect.

The Elite Eight’s blessing comes with other perks, especially if you don’t worry about a State Senate seat. Ortt, for example, might have to fall back on defending his Albany post should he fail to parlay his 100% rating by the Conservative Party into a special election nomination.

For sure, a primary will ensue. But when those party honchos from Erie, Niagara, Genesee, Orleans, Livingston, Wyoming, Monroe and Ontario counties convene in their secret clubhouse sometime in early 2020, lots will be at stake.

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