First, aftershocks rippled through Western New York Republicans following the weekend nomination of Christopher L. Jacobs for a special election in the 27th Congressional District.
Now official fissures are separating the GOP and its longtime Conservative allies.
Even as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy joined a growing chorus of top Washington Republicans with his Wednesday endorsement of Jacobs, Conservative leaders acknowledge that their wariness of joining the Jacobs bandwagon is disrupting the two parties’ normally close relationship.
“Yes, relations are strained,” said Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo on Wednesday. “Conservatives are doing their own process and are not worried about what the Republicans have done at this point.
“Am I concerned or worried?” he added. “No.”
Jacobs’ new campaign to succeed former Rep. Chris Collins in Washington suffered a major blow Tuesday when the usually friendly Conservatives opted to sit out the April 28 special election rather than back the new GOP candidate. Several sources reported Wednesday that top Republicans are livid over the development.
Lorigo emphasized on Wednesday that his Erie County committee will make no official decisions on the congressional race until Saturday, but that he expects no changes. Still, he said Jacobs and three other candidates – State Sen. Robert G. Ortt, Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr., and former Darien Town Justice Beth A. Parlato – will appear before his executive committee on Saturday.
“Right now, [Jacobs] has not convinced me or the executive board that he is the best fit for the district,” Lorigo reiterated, adding the party decided earlier in the week to keep its special election line blank rather than diffuse the opposition vote for expected Democratic candidate Nate McMurray.
The chairman also rejected the opinion of Raymond W. Walter, vice chairman of the Erie County Republican Party, who said he would not be surprised if state Conservatives overruled the local officials.
“As I read the tea leaves, nobody is vacillating in their position, despite what Ray said,” he said.
Erie County Republican Chairman Karl J. Simmeth Jr. echoed his vice chairman's views on Wednesday, noting that Jacobs has always enjoyed Conservative support in the past.
"I'm kind of disappointed at the local Conservatives' current stand after a long relationship of working well together," he said. "There's time left to do the right thing here."
But while Conservatives were hesitant to award their line to Jacobs, others were bolstering the candidate’s right-leaning credentials. McCarthy, the top House Republican, said he was “committed” to making Jacobs the region’s next congressman.
“He is a proven fighter who knows how to win and will help advance President Trump’s agenda,” McCarthy said. “The Republican party is more unified than ever before. I know Chris Jacobs will helps us restore order to the People’s House and be a leader in championing the president’s agenda to secure our borders, strengthen our military, and stop the House Democrat’s socialist agenda.”
The minority leader joins two other New York Republicans – Reps. Tom Reed of Corning and Elise Stefanik of Schuylerville – in backing Jacobs. Earlier this week, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise also endorsed Jacobs in efforts to bolster his conservative credentials that some find lacking.
Reed said Wednesday while he will avoid official endorsements in a neighboring district, he is more than enthused about a Jacobs candidacy.
“I will just tell you I stand with Chris Jacobs in this special election and I think he’s going to demonstrate to the people that he is going to be the candidate that will represent them long term there,” he told The Buffalo News.
Democrats, meanwhile, were slated to officially endorse McMurray Thursday evening, along with Rep. Brian Higgins in the 26th District.