Robert G. Ortt is not waiting for Republican leaders to name their candidate for the vacant 27th Congressional District seat.
He’s going on the radio to make his own case.
The state senator from North Tonawanda launches ads in Buffalo and Rochester on Monday to directly tell voters that GOP officials from the district’s eight counties should nominate him as the candidate for a special election to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Republican Chris Collins back in September.
While voters won’t have their own say until a special election is scheduled, Ortt now directs his message to the town leaders who may influence the county chairmen expected to name their candidate as soon as some time this month.
“They need a campaign with a real brand, the infrastructure in place, and ready to go right out of the gate,” Ortt said Sunday.
The state senator faces as many as five other Republicans for the nod of county leaders, who hold the power to name a special election candidate. The situation could gain some clarity today in a Rochester courtroom, where State Supreme Court Justice John J. Ark is slated to hear the state Republican Party’s contention that the special election should occur before the April 28 date that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo prefers.
But Ortt is not waiting for party leaders or the judge’s decision. He is spending about $5,000 for a week of drive-time ads on WBEN in Buffalo and WHAM in Rochester (with more next week) highlighting his political experience, support for President Trump, and military veteran status that included receiving the Bronze Star in Afghanistan.
“We feel we’re ready to move into the endgame phase of this as far as the special election goes,” he said, adding that town and county leaders also over the weekend began receiving literature from him aimed at those deciding the process.
“They need to know we have a real and professional campaign ready to go on Day One,” he said.
Most observers believe Ortt enters the fray with significant support from Niagara and Orleans counties, which he represents in Albany. But he must still garner more backing to achieve a majority, especially from Erie County, which controls about 40% of the weighted vote needed for the nomination.
And he faces significant opposition from State Sen. Christopher L. Jacobs of Orchard Park and former Darien Justice Beth A. Parlato, who have declared for the seat. Also considering the race are Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr. and Assemblyman Steve Hawley of Genesee County. Health care firm employee Frank C. Smierciak II is also in the race.
Republican leaders are expected to convene soon after a special election date is proclaimed by the governor.
Former Grand Island Supervisor Nate McMurray is the Democratic candidate.