It’s an unusual kind of endorsement in an odd sort of election. In recommending State Sen. Chris Jacobs as the Republican nominee for the 27th Congressional District, we are speaking not so much to voters, but to the eight party chairs who will select the nominee.
But voters don’t need to feel themselves entirely cut out of the process. They can make their preferences known to their county Republican organizations, and we have attached the available contact information. (Genesee County doesn’t offer any kind of contact information for voters. Party members might want to have a word with their leaders about that.)
The chairs are directly involved because they are preparing for a special election, which observers expect Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to schedule for April 28. The chairs, by weighted votes, will choose a nominee in their bid to retain the seat vacated by Chris Collins, who pleaded guilty last year to federal charges involving insider trading. Their nominee will face Democrat Nate McMurray, the former Grand Island supervisor who narrowly lost his November 2018 challenge to Collins.
Based on experience and demonstrated ability, Jacobs is clearly the best choice among the four candidates. And regardless of carping from zealots such as the Club for Growth, Jacobs is a conservative who could serve the residents of the state’s most Republican district well. He is also the best bet to hang on to the seat when redistricting makes the district less Republican, as it surely will.
The other candidates are State Sen. Robert Ortt of North Tonawanda, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw Jr. and former Darien Town Justice Beth A. Parlato.
Jacobs has been a Buffalo School Board member, an effective Erie County clerk and a state senator. He is a businessman and the founder of a successful scholarship program that helps disadvantaged students. He not only brings a set of conservative beliefs to his campaign, but he knows better than at least two of the others how to make the system work.
That would be important in any case, but especially so since the winner of the special election – and very likely the November replay – will be serving as a member of the House minority. If voters, who have been without representation since Sept. 30, can avoid sending a novice who needs a long period of on-the-job learning, so much the better.
Jacobs is also the candidate who will best work with his Western New York peers, Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and Tom Reed, R-Corning. While Ortt, in particular, notes that he has worked with Higgins’ office in the past, Jacobs seems the better equipped to work across the aisle to ensure that a deep red district gets a fair shake in the House of Representatives.
The other candidates, it is fair to say, all bring something to the table. Ortt was mayor of North Tonawanda and has served in the State Senate since 2015. He is an able, even excellent, communicator and, like Jacobs, is a good political match for his district.
Predictably, he is being forced to answer questions about the criminal charge that was brought against him – and then quickly dropped. A judge ruled there was no cause to charge him, but left open the door to whether his wife had inappropriately benefited from an arrangement in which the Niagara County Republican Party paid some of her salary at a private company.
Ortt adamantly denies any illegality, but at least one opponent – Parlato – is making an issue of the case. It could resonate in a district where two of the three previous representatives resigned either because of personal scandal or criminal conviction.
Parlato may be the surprise of the race. It’s no revelation that, as a regular contributor to Fox News, her positions align with New York’s most Republican congressional district. But even lacking Jacobs’ experience, she is an unexpected force. If she loses, voters should hope to see more of her in the future. She could use that time to gain more political experience; it would only make her stronger.
Mychajliw is the least experienced of the candidates and also the most extreme, allowing no federal role whatsoever in health care, pushing to revise Social Security in a way that critics say would undermine it and wanting to cut taxes again, even as the budget deficit has doubled since the 2017 cut. He would be largely ineffective in Congress.
To be sure, he is a more polished and personable candidate than in the past, but he is also dogged by an issue of ethics: As comptroller, he solicited donations from people his office could have ended up auditing so he could attend a professional development program at Harvard University. He has never acknowledged the conflict. It’s a troubling issue, especially as he seeks election to a district whose residents have been plagued by unethical representatives.
Jacobs comes to the race with experience and without significant baggage. That should appeal to the party bosses.
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LET THEM KNOW WHAT YOU THINK
Here is contact information for Republican voters of the 27th Congressional District who want to let their party chairs know which candidate they favor as nominee to succeed former Rep. Chris Collins.
Email (via website): ecgop.com/contact-us
Email (via website): ontariocountyrepublicancommittee.com/ontario-county-gop-officers
Email: (via website) orleansnygop.com/contact-us